Getting Patients to Take Their Meds

The “collision in the marketplace” of new physician payment models and exorbitantly priced medications gives business value — besides being the right thing to do — to helping make sure patients take their medications as you’ve ordered. 

So says blogger Joseph Kvedar, MD, who’s looked at texting vs. mobile apps as a way to help keep patients on track with their medications. In fact, about half of patients don’t take their medications as prescribed, according to an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Dr. Kvedar suggests that while there are downsides to texting patients, this method of communication is good for simple, one-time reminders like medication refills and flu shots; for “short-term campaigns” for patients taking infrequent medications; or for patients without a smartphone. 

However, for more complex treatment regimens that require long-term patient engagement, using mobile apps — they can be free to download — is a better way to encourage patients to stay on track with their medications. They can provide monitoring, notifications, and education.

In the Mayo Clinic article, the authors offer these strategies to improve medication adherence:

  • Steer patients to educational programs, especially those that are disease-specific, or to reputable online resources.
  • Involve patients in decisions about taking medication, e.g., ask them what time of day they would prefer taking their pills.
  • For patients with poor health literacy or a language barrier, provide pictorial rather than written instructions. Also, the National Library of Medicine provides health information in various topics in a variety of languages.
  • Consider how patients’ economic status may affect their ability to buy medications, and link them to financial assistance, if possible.
  • Consider patients’ cultural beliefs and attitudes when discussing medications.
  • Stress the immediate advantages of adherence if you suspect your patient may be too “impatient” to stick with a long-term regimen.

See also TMA’s resource center on e-prescribing.

Published Nov. 15, 2016

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Last Updated On

April 19, 2018

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