Measuring the Quality of Medication Use in Older Adults

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The quality of health care in the United States continues to fall short of expectations. A contributing factor is the suboptimal use of medications, a problem that is causing significant morbidity and mortality and costing the healthcare industry billions of dollars each year. Older adults are especially vulnerable to suboptimal quality medication use because of their concurrent medical conditions, multiple medications, and the physiological effects of aging on the use of drug therapy. In addition, older adults and their caregivers are often responsible for managing complex medication regimens. Efforts to measure the quality of medication use in older adults have traditionally focused on inappropriate medications and doses, select indicators of medication appropriateness, or diseases rather than the unique medication needs of individual patients. The goal is to move toward a measure that can account for the complexities of an individual's medication regimen and that is responsive to individual patient values and needs. The purpose of this article is to discuss the benefits and limitations of current strategies to measure the quality of medication use in older adults and, using a case study, illustrate the variations in quality measurement using existing measures. The article concludes with recommendations for moving toward a more-comprehensive approach to measuring the quality of medication use in older adults.

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