8 Ways Office Staff Can Help Improve Patient Medication Adherence

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medication adherence

Medication nonadherence is responsible for an estimated 125,000 deaths annually and $100-$300 billion per year in the United States. It is an epidemic associated with poor health outcomes, increased hospitalization rates, and higher healthcare costs. Medication nonadherence has long been a concern to clinicians and healthcare systems worldwide. Still, nearly 50% of patient prescriptions are taken incorrectly or not at all.

What is Medication Adherence?

Medication adherence refers to whether patients take their medications as prescribed, and if they continue to take a prescribed medication. Poor adherence to prescribed medication encompasses a wide range of behaviors such as:

  • Delay or not filling a prescription
  • Not picking up a prescription
  • Skipping doses
  • Splitting pills, stopping a medication early
  • Not refilling a prescription

What are the Reasons for Medication Non-adherence?

There are many reasons for patient’s medication non-adherence including simple forgetfulness, insufficient knowledge of the medication, complicated treatment regimens, concerns about becoming dependent on medications, lack of symptoms, fear of potential side effects, cost, and mistrust.

Although patient’s medication compliance typically begins with the provider it certainly doesn’t stop there. Providers, nurses, patients, staff, and health care systems, all share a role in improving medication adherence. In our previous post “Improving Medication Adherence” we discussed how patient education can improve patient adherence. There are also many ways medical and office staff can also help enhance patient compliance. The following are some best practices and activities for office staff suggested by the American College of Preventative Medicine.

8 Activities Healthcare Provider Office Staff Can Use to Enhance Adherence:

  1. Improve the convenience of scheduling appointments, referrals, and refills
  1. Remind patients to refill early
  1. Utilize short message service (SMS) reminders
  1. Provide counseling, repeated monitoring, and feedback
  1. Use automated telephone or computer-assisted patient monitoring
  1. Use manual telephone follow-up
  1. Deliver appointment and prescription refill reminders 
  1. Send patient mailings that reinforce medication taking 

Measuring Patient Adherence

There are various methods for measuring patient adherence including simply asking the patient directly, self-reports, pill counts and rates of prescription refills, and patient questionnaires. Medical practices looking to measure patient adherence through patient feedback should consider utilizing M3-Patient Experience®, MedicalGPS’ real-time patient feedback system, M3 has a built-in option for practices to have up to five (5) custom questions.  Those questions may be medication-adherence oriented as needed.  Because M3-Patient Experience allows for every patient to be followed up with, after every office visit, using M3 to help improve patient medication adherence can be a real benefit.

On-Demand Video Demo of M3 Patient Experience


1) http://www.acpm.org/?MedAdherTT_ClinRef 

2) http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/119/23/3028

3) https://www.ahrq.gov/

4) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818850 

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