The financial and health implications of medication nonadherence are staggering — costing the U.S. healthcare system between $100 and $290 billion annually and taking the lives of 125,000 people each year. When patients fail to take their medications as directed, they are at risk of disrupted treatment, disease progression, increased hospitalizations and unnecessary medical costs.
While patients navigate new challenges to adherence brought on by the pandemic, such as fear of in-person visits to hospitals, pharmacists are ideally positioned to promote the value of adherence through a patient-centered approach to pharmacotherapy.
Pharmacists can work directly with patients to improve their adherence and, ultimately, their quality of life. Here are three patient-centered interventions that pharmacists can leverage to improve medication adherence:
Identify Causes of Medication Nonadherence
A multitude of factors can lead to a patient failing to take prescriptions as directed, including time management (i.e., forgetfulness), poor health literacy and lack of motivation. Social determinants, such as a patient’s income or access to transportation, also can put patients at risk if they are unable to afford prescriptions or travel to see a doctor.
One method for identifying at-risk patients is to work with pharmacy benefit managers who offer resources for assessing individuals who are at risk of future nonadherence. For example, PBMs can identify gaps in medication therapy by tracking drug utilization, formulary structure and benefit plan design. These programs can proactively help retail pharmacists identify at-risk patients and provide a more accurate estimate of patients’ adherence.
Accessible Patient Communication
Patients are at risk of nonadherence if they do not understand their medical conditions or prescriptions, or why or how they should take medications or what side effects they may experience. Enhanced pharmacist and patient communication via consultations and education can improve patients’ understanding of their pharmacotherapy treatment and increase pharmacist understanding of patients’ barriers to adherence.
To optimize patient education, pharmacists can improve access to medication information by simplifying instructions and providing verbal and print communication in multiple languages. Additionally, ongoing counseling, outside of initial consultations, can provide an opportunity to check in with patients along their medication journey to identify any new nonadherence risks, ultimately strengthening the patient-pharmacist relationship and improving overall health outcomes.
Offer Personalized Resources and Solutions
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to ensureing medication adherence. That said, retail pharmacists are well positioned within their communities to improve adherence by working directly with their patients to offer tailored solutions.
Pharmacists can serve as a bridge between patients and a wealth of resources aimed at preventing and treating nonadherence. For example, patients transitioning to a new pharmacy benefits plan may become at risk of nonadherence due to potential changes in prescription costs or formularies. Pharmacists can educate patients on programs offered by their PBMs that address these changes. Navitus Health Solutions’ Clinical Engagement Center is specifically designed to facilitate that transition and prevent or treat nonadherence. Similar PBM programs targeting the root causes of nonadherence, such as co-pay assistance programs for those experiencing financial barriers, can help pharmacists develop a tailored solution to address specific cost challenges to adherence.
The causes of medication nonadherence are manifold, and through a patient-centered approach, pharmacists can improve adherence by working directly with their community to overcome barriers and implement effective interventions. Pharmacists who engage patients in their pharmacotherapy treatment and connect them with resources, such as their PBM, to alleviate their barriers to adherence will empower them to self-manage their medication regimen and improve their quality of life. dsn
Alan Van Amber is senior vice president of provider services at Navitus Health Solutions.
Julie Olso is senior director of population health at Navitus Health Solutions