It’s no secret that poor medication adherence is a major problem in the US. In fact, it’s estimated that only 50% of patients take their medications as prescribed. Not only does this lead to poorer health outcomes for patients, but it also drives up healthcare costs.
There are a number of reasons why patients don’t take their medications as prescribed. In some cases, patients simply forget to take their medications. In other cases, they may not be able to afford their medications, or they may have side effects that make taking their medications difficult.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that something needs to be done to improve medication adherence. And that’s where pharmacists can play a key role.
As the most accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are in a unique position to help improve medication adherence. Below are a few easy ways that pharmacists can make a difference.
Educate Patients about Their Medications
One of the best things pharmacists can do to improve medication adherence is to educate patients about their medications.
This includes explaining what the medications are for, how to take them, and what the possible side effects are.
Patients are more likely to take their medications as prescribed if they understand why they’re taking them and what to expect. That means pharmacists should take the time to explain things to their patients.
While patient engagement is crucial for boosting medication adherence and improving patient health outcomes, interventions to promote patient engagement are still underexplored.
According to one article by Krist et al., patient engagement can be a crucial tool in shifting the healthcare paradigm to a more holistic, preventative care model.
“Patient engagement demarcates an increasing shift from more paternalistic models of care in which clinicians tell patients what they should do (and often ineffectively), to one in which clinicians partner with patients,” wrote authors in the NIH article.
“The collaborative partnership is intended to: help make better medical decisions; educate patients about how to stay healthy and manage conditions; develop systems and supports to activate patients; and sustain patient interest in their ongoing care,” the authors continued.
Educating patients on the purpose, effects, and procedures associated with taking medications is one step toward improving patient engagement.
Help Patients Manage Side Effects
Side effects are one of the most common reasons why patients don’t take their medications as prescribed.
But the benefits of taking medications as prescribed far outweigh possible side effects, which may include constipation, insomnia, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and other issues.
Particularly for patients taking medications to manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or hypoglycemia, lapsed doses and poor medication adherence can lead to coma, seizure, and death.
If a patient is experiencing side effects, they may be tempted to stop taking their medications or to take them less often than prescribed.
Encourage patients to be honest and transparent when troubling side effects occur. Talk to patients about any other medications or behaviors they can initiate that may reduce or eliminate these side effects.
An open conversation about potential issues can mitigate lapses in medication adherence and improve patient health outcomes long term.
Encourage Patients to Subscribe to Only One Pharmacy
There are so many pharmacies out there, and some patients like to shop around for the best prices and deals. However, it can be difficult for patients to keep track of their medications if they’re getting them from multiple pharmacies.
Pharmacists can help patients by encouraging them to subscribe to only one pharmacy. This will help them keep track of their medications and make it easier to keep track of their prescriptions.
Subscribing to only one pharmacy simplifies the complete care management experience for patients.
It means they only need to travel to one location to pick up all their prescriptions, they only need to submit insurance information to one pharmacy, and they only need to make one phone call or text to check in on prescriptions, prescription refills, and medication changes.
According to one study in NIH, having multiple pharmacies has a notable negative effect on medication adherence.
“Filling prescriptions at multiple pharmacies was associated with lower medication adherence across multiple chronic medications, and a small but statistically significant increase in DDIs among concurrent pharmacy users,” stated report authors.
Encouraging patients to visit only one pharmacy rather than multiple can have a small but important impact on medication adherence.
Recommend the Use of Pill Dispensers or Reminders
If there are patients taking multiple medications, recommending the use of pill dispensers or reminders is a great way to improve their adherence to their prescriptions. These can help patients track their medications and ensure they’re taking them as prescribed.
There are various pill dispensers and reminders available on the market.
Some of these products have a high-tech feature that let patients know when it’s time to take their medication. It’s an excellent way for patients to keep track of their medications.
One study in BMC Geriatrics found a statistically significant correlation between the use of pill dispensers and other technology and increased medication adherence.
“The evidence suggests that medication dispensing technology can promote extremely high adherence in patients that are non-compliant with their medication regimen,” wrote authors in the study. “The trend of recorded medication adherence further revealed that the MDS provided users immediate improvement and consistent adherence over time.”
Consistent medication adherence over time is the ultimate goal for care teams monitoring patients with chronic conditions.
Promoting the use of medication dispensing technology can be a vital part of improving medication adherence for patients who have struggled to take their medications consistently.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
One of the best ways to help patients comply with their medications is to keep the lines of communication open.
Patients should feel comfortable asking questions about their medications and how to take them. They should also feel comfortable asking for help if they need it.
Ensuring patients have the chance to interact and communicate with their care teams consistently is key to increasing patient engagement, and, by extension, promoting medication adherence.
The way healthcare providers talk to their patients about medication adherence is just as important as how often they interface with patients, according to NIH.
“Medication nonadherence is often hidden,” wrote authors in the article. “In one study, 83% of patients did not tell their HCPs that they were not going to fill a new prescription.”
“Qualitative studies suggest that the manner in which an HCP asks about medication-taking behavior is crucial in facilitating discovery of patients’ true medication nonadherence,” the authors continued. “Directly asking patients, ‘Are you taking your medication(s)?’ is not adequate to discover nonadherence. HCPs need to discuss adherence with their patients in a nonjudgmental way to uncover the true medication-taking behavior.”
Adopting a non-judgemental tone and line of questioning is key to uncovering instances of nonadherence that are not immediately obvious.
Building rapport with patients over time can help patients feel comfortable discussing any issues they have that may be inhibiting them from taking their medications as prescribed.
Pharmacists play a critical role in improving medication adherence. By providing education and support to patients, pharmacists can help patients better understand their medication regimens and improve their compliance with treatment.
Medistics empowers clinical care teams to deliver personalized, preventative care to patients with chronic conditions. The Medistics Care Management Platform is designed to simplify the patient experience at every step of the care journey to improve patient health outcomes.
Whether it’s through remote patient monitoring or medication compliance tips, the goal of the Medistics team is to simplify the patient experience through a cohesive care management solution. Schedule a meeting today.