By Audrey Landers
One of the most frustrating things a patient can do is refuse to take their medicine, and patients do it every day for any reason under the sun. Studies have shown that as many as 30% of prescriptions are never filled and nearly 50% of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed. This noncompliance can cause problems that would be completely avoided if only the patient would take their medicine. While ultimately the decision to comply belongs to the patient, there are a few things physicians can do to guide their hand.
Make sure instructions are clear
A patient may have a prescription with a label that reads “take one capsule by mouth twice daily.” What does that mean for the patient? Is it every twelve hours? Are they to be taken with food? Can the patient take them both at the same time and get it over with? To a physician or clinician these instructions may seem clear but many patients have low health literacy, meaning they may have difficulty understanding how or when to take a medication if the instructions on the bottle are vague or not written in lay language. You can help combat this confusion by explaining the medication when it is prescribed and even writing or printing a set of fully explained instructions if you believe that the patient may forget or does not fully understand after receiving a full explanation.
One issue many patients face in staying compliant is forgetfulness. It happens, especially if the patient is not used to medication and does not feel any immediate benefit from taking it. Fortunately, there is a solution that almost everyone carries in their pockets. By instructing your patients to set reminders on their phones, you can not only increase the chance that they will comply but may help them increase the effectiveness of certain medicines that need to be taken at the same time each day, such as birth control. If you think your patients would be interested in a more medicine-specific app, there are over 20,000 medicine related apps available for smartphones. Apps allow patients to keep track of their medications as well as see how well they are adhering to them. These three are highly rated and available for free for both apple and android users:
- CareZone- Allows patients to easily create medication lists by scanning bottles, set reminders, and organize medical related information ranging from appointments, to symptoms, to contacts.
- MediSafe- Allows patients to set medication and prescription refill reminders, create progress reports that can be sent to physicians, as well as log and track other measurements such as blood pressure and weight.
- Mango Health- Turns taking medications into a fun game. Users earn points for correctly taking and logging their medications as well as bonus points for logging healthy habits. These points can be used to earn gift cards and donations to charities.
There are also more high-tech options in the works such as pill bottles that can detect when medication is removed and pills that can alert the doctor when they are swallowed.
Help them find ways to offset the cost
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), one in ten Americans don’t take their medication for the simple fact that they cannot afford to. With articles about the rising cost of medicine and healthcare being written every day, this should come as no surprise. While this may seem like a problem that no physician can fix, you can help your patients by doing a bit of research into the various programs that can help them get the medicine they need at a discounted price. Many pharmacies offer some sort of discount program for generic drugs, with the general consensus being that Costco offers the best savings. Patients can also look online for discount cards and deals on websites like GoodRX.com.
The most important thing is to listen to your patients and their concerns. Let them tell you what the problem is so you can do what you do best and help them fix it.