HEALTHmattersMD Newsletter

Medication Adherence: Improve Patient Outcomes, Simplify Prescribing and Reduce Costs

Medication nonadherence is when a patient does not take a medication as prescribed. That can lead to worsening disease, increased hospitalization and even death. Medication nonadherence is common, affecting 40-50% of patients with chronic conditions. In other words, about half the time, people don’t take their medications as prescribed.  

When providers do not incorporate medication adherence into chronic diseaseMedication adherence_small management, it can  potentially harm patients. It also creates extra work for the practice and increases overall costs.  

Here are a few easy steps you and your team can take to better manage your patients’ medications. 

Ask a simple question 

In order to uncover medication nonadherence, you have to ask patients about their medication use. Open up the conversation by asking a simple question: “How often do you miss taking your medications?” This framing is nonconfrontational and nonjudgmental, and it normalizes the problem. It also creates space to discuss barriers to adherence and develop personalized solutions with your patient.  

Simplify your workflow 

It is hard to find the time to reconcile all medications, refill medications and ensure your patients are taking them as prescribed. Save yourself up to five hours a week by adopting annual prescription renewals.  

  • Synchronize all prescriptions for chronic conditions to be renewed during one yearly visit, such as the annual checkup or wellness visit.  

  • Prescribe combination medications or extended-release formulations when clinically appropriate to simplify dosing regimens.  

  • Write for a 90-day supply with four refills (“90x4”) for prescriptions for chronic conditions. Giving your patients 90-day rather than 30-day supplies of medications has the advantage of decreasing prescription renewals. Plus, it improves adherence by reducing the number of trips to the pharmacy, therefore improving health outcomes.