The Whats, Whys, and Hows of Patient Adherence

As an independent pharmacist, you are providing a service that truly impacts and helps people’s lives. The medication you dispense helps your patients live their lives healthier — that is, if they take it as prescribed by the doctor.

That’s where patience adherence comes in. The concept of patient adherence e is a well-known element of pharmacy work.

However, with the advancement of technology and more automated services, there are ample opportunities to ensure your patients are taking the right medications the right way.

Not only is patient adherence essential to a patient’s health, but it also has a long-term effect on your pharmacy’s success and your relationship with third-party providers.

Here are some useful bits of information about patient adherence and how you can further promote them in your independent pharmacy.

What is Patient Adherence?

Also known as “medication adherence,” patient adherence is “the voluntary cooperation of the patient in taking drugs or medicine as prescribed, including timing, dosage, and frequency.”

Patient adherence fulfills the patient-pharmacist relationship: the pharmacist provides the medication, and the patient takes it as prescribed. The prescription comes from the doctor after making a measured and thoughtful verdict on how to best navigate their health journey.

It’s an admittedly simple concept, but just like almost anything in the pharmacy industry, not everything is so clear-cut.

What Causes Patient Adherence to Fall Through?

There are several reasons why your pharmacy’s patient adherence isn’t as high as it can be. One may be communication. Patients may take a maintenance medication as needed because a pharmacist didn’t counsel them on how to take it.

A patient’s health and your customer base will suffer if you don’t take the time to walk them through how they should take their medication. It’s tempting to give a patient a brief consultation when pharmacy work is at its busiest.

Even still, it’s your responsibility to keep your patients properly informed of what they’re taking and why they’re taking it.

Another cause of patient nonadherence is mere forgetfulness. We forget things all the time.

It’s completely normal and is usually done with no malice. Nevertheless, it means your patient is not taking their medication as prescribed. The forgetfulness factor is harmless but can start a domino effect on your patient’s health.

Another unfortunate reason some people don’t take their medications as prescribed is that it simply becomes overwhelming after a while. Many patients take multiple medications every day, and it becomes a chore to keep track of everything.

That’s where the importance of communication comes into play.

Take a look at that patient’s profile and help them understand how and when they need to take their medication. It’s your job to help patients make sense of the convoluted world of pharmacy.

The CDC estimates that non-adherence causes 30 to 50% of chronic disease treatment failures and 125,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

Patient adherence is vital in ensuring the general health of your patients. Though one day usually doesn’t spell doom, it starts a slippery slope of adverse health effects and even death. In short, patient care goes beyond just filling a prescription.

How to Promote Greater Patient Adherence

Now that we know the consequences of poor patient adherence, it’s time to learn how you can guide your patients in taking their medications the right way. Healthy patient, happy pharmacy.

1. Provide Pill Dispensers

Your over-the-counter shelves have more than just the typical Advil or Claritin products. They’re filled with medical supplies that make your patients’ lives a little easier.

Among them should be pill dispensers or holders, preferably ones that are divided by the day of the week. They are small, portable, and easy to use so your patients can take them on the go.

These holders should have enough space for most, if not all, their medications so their entire daily dose is easily accessible.

Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Pill dispensers or holders are an analog way of promoting greater patient adherence.

2. Ask Your Patients About Refills

Your pharmacy software system should be able to give you insight as to when a patient should be out of their medications.

Some software systems can automatically text their patients if they’re ready to refill their medications. All the patient has to do is text yes or no.

The one drawback is text messages aren’t as effective a promoter of patient adherence as phone calls. A one-on-one phone call is usually more effective in ensuring patient adherence so start dialing. Not to mention, it’s more personable than a block of text.

3. Get in Med Sync

For patients taking multiple medications, it is easy to be overwhelmed by how and when they should take a certain medication.

Pill dispensers and phone reminders indeed help, but it doesn’t do them much good if your patients have to frequently visit your pharmacy to pick up one prescription at a time.

Medication synchronization, commonly shortened to med sync, “allows patients to pick up all of their ongoing prescription refills at the pharmacy on a single, convenient day of the month…”

Simplicity is a superb way of promoting patient adherence. Fill your patient’s prescriptions all at once, making it much more convenient for both them and your pharmacy.

A study conducted by the NCPA found that patient adherence rates are “significantly greater for med sync patients.”

Patients prioritize convenience more than ever before and it’s the pharmacy’s responsibility to balance efficiency with quality. Your software plays a valuable role in ensuring that.

Many pharmacy software systems have med sync capabilities, so check if the one in your pharmacy has this feature. If not, it might be time to think about jumping ship.

How Will You Further Promote Patient Adherence?

As mentioned before, taking care of the patient goes beyond filling a prescription. The pharmacist-patient relationship goes beyond the store floor. Patient adherence is all about ensuring patients are taking the proper steps in achieving a cleaner bill of health.

It takes a village to achieve quality patient adherence. With the help of your pharmacy software, a few text messages, and a good ol’ pill dispenser, you can help your patients take their medications the right way.

When you’re promoting patient adherence, you put the “care” in “healthcare” — one of the biggest fundamentals of independent pharmacy.