After identifying the barriers to medication adherence, the next step is overcoming them through intervention or other available resources. Better communication and the implementation of tools/apps are likely the key to improved adherence for many.
For patients who are overwhelmed with daily or timed doses, sorted pillboxes or alert apps are cost-effective tools that can help many patients adhere to their prescriptions. Patients and prescribers can work together to ensure fewer pharmacy visits to fill all their medications, and schedule follow-ups to safeguard adherence over time.
Adherence hinges on the patient’s ability to understand basic health information and fully comprehend the consequences of their decisions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for improving patients’ understanding of their healthcare needs and options. Healthcare providers and pharmacists should use all of the tools at their disposal to open the lines of communication with all their patients. Likewise, patients shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions or be resistant to new information. Awareness of the issues coupled with creative communication strategies enable healthcare workers to help patients improve their health literacy. When patients better understand their conditions and know the proper way to manage their medications, they are more likely to adhere to treatment regimens and experience better outcomes.
The inability to pay for medications is possibly the biggest barrier to adherence in the United States. Nearly a third of Americans report not taking medicine as directed because of the cost. Some physicians, pharmacies and insurers have started endorsing programs that provide patients with modest financial incentives to take their medications. Cash incentives have worked for tobacco cessation and weight loss programs, and studies show it may work for prescriptions, as well. A simple step for a healthcare professional is just beginning a conversation using language such as, “Affording medications is challenging for many of my patients with diabetes. Is this something you struggle with?”
Pharmaceutical companies often offer their medications at low or no cost through Prescription Assistance Programs for patients that meet their eligibility guidelines (based on income, insurance status, etc). Other nonprofit and state-run programs can also help with the costs of medications based on diagnosis or where you live. NeedyMeds, a nonprofit information resource, has links and information to these programs and much more.
For more tips to overcome barriers to medication adherence, read here.