Using proactive communication to address medication non-adherence

Providers can address many of the barriers to medication adherence by implementing patient engagement technology.

Providers are looking to technology to improve adherence with medication prescriptions, aiming to avoid the negative effects when patients don't follow these orders.

Patient adherence to taking 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 and Prevention, 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.

Key factors

Even though patients generally want to do what’s best for their health, medication adherence persists as a significant problem. Potential factors include:

  • 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 has changed, 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.

Addressing medication adherence barriers

Medication non-adherence can be costly. In the United States alone, poor medication adherence results in $100 billion to $300 billion in annual healthcare costs, according to a report published by the National Library of Medicine.

Providers can address many of the barriers to medication adherence by implementing 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: Healthcare providers can help address barriers to medication adherence by arming patients 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, such as educational videos, and providing a steady stream of content over time helps to keep patients engaged for the long term.

Recognition, reminders and gentle nudges

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

Providers should 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. Organizations should also inform patients if they offer financial support and transportation services.

Getting results

Using patient engagement solutions to automate communications helps organizations provide personalized care without increasing staff workload.

One specialty pharmacy, Credenza Health, has used a patient engagement solution to increase medication adherence and decrease staff time spent on delivery logistics. As a result, it reports achieving a 57 percent decrease in delivery arrangement time and a 4.4 percent increase in specialty medication adherence.

Health Catalyst Editors is a team of senior editors and writers at Health Catalyst offering experience and broad knowledge of the industry.

This blog, written by Health Catalyst, first appeared here.

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