From Convenience to Communication: 3 Ways the Entire Care Team Can Improve Medication Adherence

Posted May 7, 2017

You’ve heard the phrase that “drugs don’t work in our patients who don’t take them,” something that is certainly an issue in population health management that isn’t going away any time in the near future.

Managing complex and often changing medication regimens is a challenge for people no matter their age group or socioeconomic status. In the past, we’ve talked about how it’s a large issue for aging adults, however consistently taking medication is a challenge for a great majority of people with chronic disease—and chronic disease knows no age barriers.

Supporting Medication Adherence

At the beginning of this month, adherence research was published that supported how text messages greatly impacts medication adherence. Specifically, the JAMA Internal Medicine article concluded that “mobile phone text messaging approximately doubles the odds of medication adherence. This increase translates into adherence rates improving from 50% (assuming this baseline rate in patients with chronic disease) to 67.8%, or an absolute increase of 17.8% (1).

The article also said, “Mobile telephone text messaging may be a scalable means to support medication adherence.” While technology such as MedaCheck offers a proven, behavior- and tech-based solution to improve adherence, and even does so through text message alerts, what else can we do to support success and quality outcomes in patient populations?

Here we examine 3 actions that can greatly influence adherence and clinical outcomes.

  1. Synchronized medications for one-stop pick-up of all medications each month.

Chronic disease complications and readmissions, and even death, can result when patients forget or fail to refill their prescriptions. Part of the problem is that refilling prescriptions can take a lot of time and be complicated for people who are ill (2.)

Groups including the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) actually offer members services that include ways to help pharmacists as they look to keep their patients adherent. One of these programs is called the Simplify My Meds program, and it’s aimed at creating a simpler, less complex medication management routine for patients (2).

Programs such as these might include automatic refills, but they also might go one step further, helping patients set up their prescriptions in a way where there is only one visit required to the pharmacy each month, for example. This is also a beneficial approach for caregivers who are often the ones who have to go to the pharmacy to get ongoing prescriptions for a loved one.

Ultimately, patients get the customized and personalized care they want—and caregivers get greater peace of mind knowing that things are “in sync.”

Simplification programs such as the NCPA’s offer the opportunity to help individuals feel in control as they self-manage their health, and it helps people reduce their overall complexity of their medications. This approach supports the idea that if a routine is made simpler and more manageable, patients will be more likely to be adherent (2, 3).

  1. Training to support improved quality of care team communication with patients.

While doctors and nurses are tasked with managing software that can sometimes feel as if it’s holding us back from communicating with patients, it’s still an important part of the patient experience worth examining. In fact, it is estimated that more than 183 million visits to care centers can be prevented if there was better communication (4). In a meta-analysis from 2009, it was found that “Physician communication is significantly positively correlated with patient adherence.” The report also cites how “there is a 19% higher risk of non-adherence among patients whose physician communicates poorly than among patients whose physician communicates well (5).

Being that today’s care team members need to empathize with patients more than ever, education and training is a major way to boost the effectiveness of the patient-care team communication.

Research also supports how such training and education of care teams is important. Researchers say that: “Training physicians in communication skills results in substantial and significant improvements in patient adherence” (5). Taking a closer look, we see that when comparing physicians with training around communication versus those without such training, the odds of patient adherence are 1.62 times higher when a doctor has received communication training (5). The benefit of increased communication time and quality is that a patient feels more trust in their care team, and they feel more equipped to manage their own health. With an increase in interviewing skills, verbal and nonverbal, and in positive discussions—just a few of the communication factors that are vital in any such patient encounter—care teams can help improve someone’s health literacy (4,5).

  1. Use of medication coaches to make sure patients are question-free and set-up at home for success.

While certainly not as scalable as other solutions, some people have considered medication coaches to help ease the burden on family caregivers and to help continue individualized care after someone leaves a care facility. These people, sometimes referred to as “medication coaches,” are able to partner with hospitals and other care centers so that they are able to make on-site visits to a patients’ residence (3).

When these coaches make visits, they are able to talk to patients about their medication regimen and they are able to see, first-hand, how they are managing their medication. In the process, they are able to help them manage anything they are having trouble with and able to remind patients of the importance of taking all their medications. This offers one more way to support positive behaviors and to continue to answer any questions or concerns that patients have.

The downside to this approach is that it’s new to many care centers and not always even available as an offering to patients. In some places, it also might not be affordable for patients.

Help Your Loved Ones Take Control of Their Medication Management

Want to learn more about MedaCheck’s easy-to-use medication reminder system?

Available via tablet and as a standalone app, MedaCheck makes sure you take the right dose, at the right time, every time. If you’re a hospital, care center, healthcare organization or home care provider, employer or individual, visit www.medacheck.com