physician


For the most part people go to their physician or healthcare provider to get help or treatment for a medical problem. But some people are so stubborn they’ll wait until the last minute, suffering with an ache, pain or other uncontrolled symptom of disease or condition until they have no other recourse but make an appointment to see their doctor. It’s often only when they get to this virtual point of no return are they willing to give in, seek advice and visit their ‘healer’ of choice.

Similarly, due to stubborness, the desire to follow doctor’s orders seems to disappear for many patients as soon as the prescribed treatment or therapy relieves the pain or symptoms they were suffering from. This happens all too often with antibiotic therapy where patients stop taking their medication when symptoms subside, terminating the therapy before the full course of treatment has ended. It’s also evident when a patient is prescribed a maintenance medication to control a disease or chronic condition such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, COPD or diabetes, often leading to uncontrolled symptoms, progression of disease state or even death.

What can we do to increase patient adherence and compliance with their prescribed medication regimen?

Lack of medication adherence… America’s other drug problem-

MedTime cartoon

medication compliance cards, not clubs…

Adherence and compliance to medication therapy or prescription drug regimen seems to be an ever looming problem, adding over $300 billion in healthcare expense annually in the U.S. alone. Recent statistics posted by Express Scripts indicate 69% of non-adherence to drug therapy is behavioral in nature resulting from forgetfulness or procrastination. So what’s it going to take to get people to take their medications?

No Wooden Clubs or 2 by 4’s –

Pharmacists are continually frustrated with this problem. I’m sure physicians and other prescribers are as well. Because, for the most part, we can’t “make” a patient take their medication if they don’t want to. Even when we spend the extra time to educate patients about their disease state and prescribed medications we can’t compel anybody to be compliant if they’re unwilling to do so.

$331 billion is at stake-

Improving medication adherence and ensuring timely medication use are the greatest opportunites to cutting the nearly one-half trillion dollars of avoidable healthcare costs worldwide. Any measures taken to reduce this expense and advance the responsible use of medicines  will lead to improved health outcomes as well.

What we can do, and should do, is to continue to educate, offer encouragement and provide medication reminder devices and tools to help patients who need to improve their medication compliance.

There are many tools available ranging from simple pill boxes and reminder caps on pill bottles to smart phone apps and automated pill dispensers. Some of the most unique, innovative and easy to use reminders devices are the medication compliance cards from Med Time Compliance. These devices can be designed for specific needs ranging from their iRemindHer once a day oral contraceptive compliance card and multiple daily dosing reminder cards to unique products designed for complex dosing regimens such as growth hormone injections or chemotherapy medication regimens with variable dosing schedules.

A simple thing-

As healthcare providers we should all adopt the slogan, “Remember the Reminders” to help improve medication adherence and compliance. Adding reminders to the patient education process will undoubtedly become one of the simplest, least expensive ways to improve medication adherence and compliance in the future.

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We have a drug adherence problem in the United States contributing well over $300 billion each year toward the escalation of unnecessary medical expenditures.

And you may be part of the problem!  

“Three out of four Americans don’t take their medication as prescribed while one-third doesn’t even pick up their medication,” says Rebecca Burkholder, vice president of Health Policy at the National Consumers League.

Not taking your medications correctly can contribute to long term UncleSame_takeyourmedshealth problems, especially for patients who have chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, COPD or heart disease.

So how do you know if you’re “part of the problem”?

Do you ever-

  • forget to take your medication on time, every time?
  • have trouble staying “on track” with your medication schedule?
  • skip doses or cut doses in half to save money?
  • forget to refill your prescriptions on time?
  • take the wrong medication?
  • fail to fill new prescriptions your doctor gives you?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions you are not being fully compliant with your prescription drug therapy.  Your failure, or non-compliance to taking your medications correctly can lead to:

  • additional physician office visits
  • progression of disease state
  • emergency room visits
  • hospital admissions

As a matter of fact –
If you’re not taking your medication correctly your medical condition will most likely worsen. It will result in increased inconvenience for you, increased healthcare costs and increased chance for a shortened lifespan or premature death.

Steps you can take –

  1. talk to your pharmacist about your medications in depth so you understand what they do and when to take them.
  2. consult with your pharmacist and healthcare provider if you have concerns about side effects from your medications.
  3. find out if there are ways to save money on your medication expenses if you have trouble affording them.
  4. fill your prescriptions in a timely manner, both new prescriptions and refills
  5. Utilize medication management and reminder tools to help you remember to take your medications each and every day.

Pharmacists are considered THE most accessible of any healthcare providers in the U.S. Use the availability of their counsel and expertise to your advantage to improve your health.

Dag-nabbit! 

Walter Brennan was a familiar character in many of the western movies and television shows, including “The Real McCoys”, we watched growing up as a kids in my parent’s home. I always remember when he was angry or just really emphatic he used the word dag-nabbit often in these shows.

I was recently reminded that Walter Brennan played the role of Murph, a pharmacist, in the 1947 movie “Driftwood”. I don’t remember if he used the word “dag-nabbit” in Driftwood or not. But I can imagine him as a pharmacist using it when frustrated with patients who don’t take their medication as prescribed.

Physicians and pharmacists dedicate their lives to helping patients manage their various disease states with the help of prescription drugs. Whether it is hypertension, diabetes, COPD, Parkinson’s or any other chronic disease a patient may have… if patients don’t take their medication as prescribed their disease will progress and they may find themselves in the emergency room at the local hospital.

$300 billion dollar a year problem: 

And dag-nabbit, we’ve got a medication adherence problem in the U.S. that increased healthcare costs by over $300 billion last year! Failure to take medications correctly decreases the quality of life for these individuals and it’s estimated that failure to take prescription medications as prescribed results in over 125,000 deaths each year.  So why don’t people take their medications as prescribed?

barriers to medication adherence

There are a number of reasons people don’t take their medications correctly. Communication barriers, socio-economical barriers and motivational barriers all contribute to the medication non-adherence problem.

Forgetfulness, poor understanding of disease or illness, concerns about medication costs are all contributing factors to the non-compliance issue. So how do we work towards solving the medication adherence problem?

Solving the medication adherence problem: 

Healthcare professionals need to step up efforts to engage and educate patients to the importance of taking medication correctly. Physicians, nurses and pharmacists should increase efforts to enhance patient’s understanding of their disease and how they will benefit from taking their prescription medications appropriately. Pharmacist medication therapy management MTM has also been shown to increase adherence resulting in improved patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

There are a number of organizations like Script Your Future that provide information and tools to improve medication compliance. Those who care for the elderly can also assist patients with reminders to take their medications as prescribed.

Technology can help with medication reminders and tools that improve medication adherence. Text messaging and reminders via phone are available to give personal medication reminders. There are many ‘pill reminder’ devices and systems available that have audible alarms or visual cues to remind patients it’s time to take their medication.

The LCD Compliance Card is the most accepted and used compliance device in the world. More than 10 million units have been distributed globally in several health care fields including both physician and veterinary practices.

The functions of the Compliance Card are all pre-programmed. There are no user settings. Users start the device at the desired time of day by depressing one button. There are variations of the Compliance Card that adapt to multiple regimens including daily, twice a day, or once a week.

So dag-nabbit – there really shouldn’t be any excuses not to take your medicines as prescribed!