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How Proactive Patient Communication Solves Medication Non-Adherence

Article Summary


Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Coop, MD, once said, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” Yet, patient adherence to prescribed medication tends to fall short of optimal. For example, according to the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, patients don’t fill approximately 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions. The consequences for medication non-adherence can include poor quality of life, physical limitations, hospitalization, or worse, making patient compliance an integral part of quality healthcare delivery. Providers aiming to keep patients on track with their medications can look to patient engagement technology to proactively communicate critical education about therapies and the risks of non-compliance as well avoid common barriers to adherence.

medication non-adherence

Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” − Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Coop, MD

Patient adherence to their prescribed medications is essential for optimal outcomes, especially as it relates to chronic disease prevention and management. The consequences for medication non-adherence can include poor quality of life, physical limitations, hospitalization, or worse. Yet, according to the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions are never filled, and only 50 percent of patients with a chronic condition take their medications as prescribed.

What Factors Contribute to Medication Non-Adherence?

Even though patients generally want to do what’s best for their health, adherence persists as a significant problem. There are several potential factors:

  • Insufficient patient education. Patients may not take medications because they don’t understand the benefits of the therapy or potential consequences of non-adherence.
  • Complex treatment regimens. Patients may simply have trouble remembering what their doctor told them. They may require extra support to remember what medications to take and when to take them.
  • Financial limitations. Medications can be expensive, and patients may stop taking a medication because they can’t afford it, or their insurance coverage changes, making the medication more expensive.
  • Logistical issues. Transportation limitations can make it difficult for patients to stay on track with their medication. If a patient needs to visit a pharmacy regularly—especially if they have multiple medications refilled on different dates—they may not be able to pick them up.

How to Avoid Medication Non-Adherence and Its Costs: Patient Engagement Platform

Medication non-adherence can be costly. In the United States alone, poor medication adherence results in $100 to $300 billion in annual healthcare costs. In response, providers can address many of the known barriers to medication adherence by implementing a patient engagement technology that proactively communicates with patients and enables the following:

Bi-Directional Communication

Research has identified text messaging as an effective tool to support adherence. This widely accessible communication method helps organizations stay connected with their patients, bridge gaps in resources and services, and provide valuable information and reminders. Digital communications that align with the patient care journey can help patients stay engaged and on track.

Just-in-Time Messages

Ensure that patients can proactively address barriers to medication adherence by arming them with just-in-time information and step-by-step guidance. Critical information includes why they are being prescribed a medication, the benefits of adhering to their medication, and resources to mitigate side effects.

Educational Resources

Most patients don’t have medical training and will find lengthy, technical documents intimidating. If they can’t understand the information, they’ll struggle more to comply with their care plan. Timely, simple messages can break down complex information into an understandable, useful format that’s easier for patients to digest and follow.

Furthermore, creating engaging content, like educational videos, and providing a steady stream of content over time helps to keep patients engaged for the long term.

Reminders, Encouragement, and Ongoing Motivation

In addition to educational content that ensures patients understand their medications, care teams must also encourage patients to stick with their care plan and remind them why it’s so important. If a patient reaches a new milestone or has improved their health condition, acknowledging this can be a great motivator. Recognition, reminders, and gentle nudges can help patients feel connected to their treatment journey and empowered to make healthy choices.

Awareness of Barriers Before They Have a Negative Impact

Make sure patients have a way to report barriers to adherence. Prompting patients to report what they are experiencing helps care teams get ahead of potential issues. Helpful tools, such as patient surveys, can alert care teams of potential issues, which they can then address. For organizations with financial support and transportation services, proactively informing patients about these resources better supports any patients who may benefit from them.

Patient Engagement Solution Improves Care Delivery via Automated Communications

Using patient engagement solutions to automate communications helps organizations provide personalized care without increasing staff workload and is a valuable tool in addressing medication non-adherence.

See how one leading specialty pharmacy, Credena Health, uses Twistle™ by Health Catalyst to increase medication adherence and decrease staff time spent on delivery logistics. Through implementing Twistle pathways, Credena Health has achieved a 57 percent decrease in delivery arrangement time and a 4.4 percent increase in specialty medication adherence. Download the case study to learn more.

Additional Reading

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