Americans just have a hard time taking their meds. Even those who elect pharmacological intervention over invasive surgery have difficulty sticking to their routine. Data from the World Health Organization indicates that medication adherence can have a more direct impact on patient outcomes than the specific treatment itself. Other analyses from the University of California Riverside indicates that medication adherence must meet 80 percent for optimal efficiency.
Couple these figures with the reality that proper medication adherence in the United States is just around 50 percent, and we see a big disconnect that, as we speak, is impacting people’s everyday and long-term health and quality of life.
So, why then, are people having such difficulty taking the very medicine that can help them improve and prolong their lives? While the answers can be complex as the chemistry that goes into making these pills, there are several common factors that can play a key role in the derailing of medication adherence.
The Root of All Evil…
The reality is that many patients exist in a marketplace where they simply can’t afford their medications. Data from Consumer Reports reveals that around a quarter of patients who go till their script at the pharmacy are shocked by the cost, and that 14 percent don’t end up filling them at all. As the out-of-pocket costs of prescriptions continue to grow, we can also expect the number of people who bypass the pharmacy for the food store.
The (Not So) Little Things
Poor time management and lack of routine play an enormous role in deviation from proper medication adherence. According to data from Health Dialog, 47 percent of people let seemingly small things like forgetfulness, inadequate storage (no pill boxes or places to put their pills on any given day) and other logistical factors get in the way of their routine.
In a country where it’s common to only address our health when we’re immediately sick or hurting, many people forget to take their pills until they get an urgent reminder from their bodies. How many of us go along in our daily lives, and suddenly remember that we forgot to take our medicine?
What You Don’t Know Can Save You
Over 11 percent of patients surveyed by Health Dialog also reported that lack of knowledge was a primary barrier to their medication adherence. This includes lack of understanding of a medication’s proper use, correct instructions, reason for taking it, and side effects. It also includes lack of understanding of the medication’s benefits and the consequences of non-adherence. By spending a little extra time with patients to educate them about their meds, doctors may able to drastically enhance rates of medication adherence within their own practices.
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Sometimes the patient is not to blame for their lack of medication adherence. Communication and trust between patient and physician are fundamental to medication education and adherence. Nevertheless, patients routinely report that doctors change the parameters of their medication routine without telling them and expect the pharmacy to act as their liaison to alert patients of the change.
It’s also not uncommon for doctors to verbally, and without documentation, change directions of a prescription during quick office visits and forget to refill a script. To compound these lapses in communication, it may take days or even weeks before a patient is able to get in touch with their physician to correct the error.
“May Cause What?! No Thanks”
There is a very large contingent of patients who are prescribed medication that believe that old adage: “The cure is worse than the disease.” Side effects are a common barrier to medication adherence in all manner of conditions, from more mild conditions to severe, like cancer. Side effects that are of common concern include anything from pain, dizziness, headache or stomach issues, to lifestyle factors like weight gain or bad breath. The patient often makes their own calculation, despite what their doctor tells them, that they’d rather take their chances by dealing with their illness.
Other common barriers to proper medication adherence include simple lack of motivation and limited physical and mobility resources.
“The cure is worse than the disease.” Side effects are a common barrier to medication adherence in all manner of conditions, from more mild conditions to severe, like cancer.
So…What Is the Solution Here?
Everyone has their own story, right? Between those crucial times when it’s time to take the medicine, there are personal battles being fought on all fronts that can prevent people from taking care of themselves, not just in the pharmacological context, but also in their general everyday and long-term wellness. These are complex problems that require intuitive, scalable solutions that allow patients to be educated, valued, heard, seen and supported.
US Pharmacist reports what GoMo Health has known for years: that mobile text messaging can be a key tool in medication adherence, and provide patients all the support and assistance they need, from simple everyday reminders to take their drugs, to information on potential side effects, to motivational messaging and information on cost-saving resources.
Improper medication adherence is, by no means, a new problem. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 33 – 66 percent of all medication-related hospitalizations that occur in the US were caused by poor medication adherence way back in 2005. The only difference is that we now have the ability to leverage mobile technology to educate, support, and change patient behaviors on a minute-by-minute basis.