Adherence Tips

For patients and caregivers

  • Develop a routine. Take your medication at the same time every day. Be sure to time doses with meals if the medicine needs to be taken with food, or between meals if directed to be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Be organized. If taking multiple prescriptions, use a pill container that organizes pills by days of the week or even times of day. Keep the original container(s) with the dosage, patient and pharmacy information nearby in case you need to refer to it and for use when ordering refills. Some pill bottles may even have a built-in timer to remind you to take your medicine. 
  • Plan ahead. Keep a calendar of when you need to refill prescriptions, and be sure to bring enough medicine with you when traveling. Bring extra doses so you are prepared for any unexpected delays. Order your prescription refills early, especially when using a mail-order pharmacy so you don’t run out of your medicine. Ask about delivery service as many pharmacies will now deliver your prescriptions right to your door.
  • Manage side effects. Tell your healthcare team about any side effects you experience so they can help you work through them without reducing or stopping any necessary treatment.
  • There’s an app for that. The NeedyMeds Storylines App can schedule reminders to take medications, record missed doses or side effects and locate pharmacies. It even has the preloaded drug discount card and can connect you with other medication savings programs. 
  • Manage your pain and your medicine safely – Work with your doctor to create a plan to manage your pain to make sure you are getting the safest, most effective pain management possible. Discuss possible ways to manage your pain without opioids. If it is determined that opioids are the best course of action, talk to your doctor about any and all side effects and concerns.
  • Safe disposal of unused medicines. What should you do with medications that have not been used, or are expired and out of date? When they are no longer needed, it’s important to dispose of them properly to avoid harm to others. Safe disposal greatly reduces the chance that others may accidentally or intentionally take the medicine that was not prescribed for them such as opioid medicines.

For healthcare professionals

  • Educate. Tell patients what to expect and prepare them for all possible outcomes. If a patient starts feeling better, they might think the drug is no longer needed. If they feel worse, the patient could discontinue therapy to avoid side effects. If the patient experiences no change whatsoever, they may conclude that the drug isn’t working. Ask whether someone can help with the patient’s medication schedule. Patients with assistance have better medication adherence. 
  • Nurture. Incorporate motivational interviewing and develop criteria to help assess the potential for non-adherence. This is as easy as taking time to speak with and establish a relationship with every patient who walks through the door. Ask patients how they are feeling, if a new dosage is working better, or if they are experiencing any new side effects. Be receptive to the patient and their concerns about any challenges they face around taking their medications. After reviewing an in-take assessment, offer personalized solutions and acknowledge any successes. Improved communication can help lead to behavioral change and improved adherence and a better chance that they will keep their follow-up appointments. 
  • Be a team. Advocate for a patient-centered healthcare team. Improved communication can help lead to behavioral change, improved adherence and a better chance that the patient will keep their follow-up appointments. The prescriber should establish communication channels with the pharmacist as well as with their patients. Giving patients a sense of belonging to a team that regularly communicates about their care can help improve patient outcomes. Review the medications and schedule with your patient to make sure they have a good understanding of their drug therapy regimen.
  • Synchronize schedules and eliminate unnecessary or redundant medications. Coordinate as many medication refills for patients to pick up at the same time and at the same pharmacy to ensure against lack of interruption in therapies with fewer trips to the pharmacy. Coordinate the medication refills with the patient’s other medical specialists if necessary. Is it easier for the patient to pick up their medicine; do they need help with transportation to the pharmacy; is delivery or mail-order an option? Look for opportunities to reduce the frequency of medications. The fewer times each day medication must be taken, the better adherence will be. 
  • Follow up. Schedule follow-up appointments or calls with your patients to check in on their treatment. Assist with any problems and measure the adherence of their medication regimen. 

For more insights on patient communication:

Download the BeMedWise TalkBeforeYouTake Campaign: New Research Supports Increasing Patient Communication about Prescription Medicines

Read more about Medication Non-Adherence