Health care providers' primary responsibility is to do all within their power to help treat and care for their patients, individually and collectively. However, providers also have a responsibility to their organization, making health care decisions that can help keep the organization financially solvent, which is essential for the organization to continue providing care to patients.
When providers help their patients more effectively manage medications, they fulfill both their responsibilities to their patients and organization. For patients, better medication management helps ensure patients receive the maximum benefits of their prescriptions while avoiding the risks associated with poor medication adherence. For organizations, improved medication management helps reduce readmissions. Hospital costs surpassed $41 billion for patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Here are four quick tips providers can follow to improve their patients' medication management.
1. Understand the obstacles
For providers to be in a position where they can most effectively help patients improve medication management, they must first uncover all the potential obstacles to effective management. There are the more obvious barriers, such as forgetfulness, following a complex regimen schedule, affording medications, convenient access to a pharmacy, and side effects.
But some less obvious obstacles that are still important to be aware of include the following:
- Limited or low health literacy
- Frequent and extended traveling, possibly out of the country
- Dismissal of the need for medications because of a lack of symptoms
- Believing alternative treatments (e.g., herbals, acupuncture, dietary supplements, vitamins, electromagnetic therapy, hypnosis) can replace the need to take prescription medications
- Denial of a diagnosis
2. Assess the individual needs of each patient
Medication management challenges, like those identified above, vary from patient to patient. Patients who struggle with memory may not struggle with costs. Patients who have problems getting to a pharmacy to fill and refill prescriptions may have no problems sticking to a dosing schedule.
Providers should go into each new patient encounter without assumptions about patient challenges and understand that barriers can change in between encounters. This approach will help ensure no potential challenges are overlooked.
Through discussions with their patients, providers can work to determine the specific medication management challenges facing or likely to face each patient. Once barriers are identified, specific solutions can then be pursued and recommended.
3. Be prepared with resources
There are several medication management resources that patients may find helpful. Once providers have identified a patient's barriers to medication management, they should be prepared to discuss possible resources (i.e., solutions) to these barriers.
Providers can take this assistance to another level by giving patients the opportunity to hold and experience using the resources. This will help patients more effectively assess whether some resources are more suitable to their needs than others before moving ahead with acquiring the resources. As there are many different versions of resources, try to have a few examples of pill organizers, dispensers, timers, etc., available. If possible, also have a tablet with various mobile apps loaded onto it for patients to preview.
4. Follow up
After an encounter in which a provider changes a patient's medication regimen, a follow-up communication by the provider or a provider's representative to the patient can help improvement management. This communication can address whether the patient had any problems obtaining medications, has any questions about the new regimen, or is experiencing any unexpected side effects.
This is also a good opportunity to discuss resources recommended during the encounter. Speak about whether the patient acquired the resources, is using the resources, is experiencing any challenges with the resources, or requires any additional resources to help with management.