Spend some time researching medication adherence and you will inevitably come across this famous quote from former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop: "Drugs don't work in patients who don't take them." While there are limitations to how much you can help your patients take their medications — after all, you can’t take their meds for them — there is much you can do to improve the likelihood that they will. That's where medication management comes in.
As a blog from Walker Methodist notes, "Medication management is a service designed to help individuals manage their medications so they take them on time, all the time, and avoid the dangers of incorrect medication administration." Such dangers include adverse reactions, hospitalizations, complications (if medications are intended to help with recovery from surgery, chronic pain, and illnesses), and billions of dollars spent on avoidable medical and pharmacy expenses.
If improving medication management is a priority for you and your organization, the good news is that you can play a significant role in helping patients better manage their medications and adhere to their regimen. Here are five medication management services worth providing to patients.
1. Medication therapy review
The American Pharmacists Association defines a medication therapy review as a "… systematic process of collecting patient-specific information, assessing medication therapies to identify medication-related problems, developing a prioritized list of medication-related problems, and creating a plan to resolve them."
While this review may be time consuming, it can provide a foundation for medication management success going forward. Without the information captured in the review, it can be more difficult to make appropriate decisions and provide the most effective guidance to patients concerning their medication regimen.
2. Comprehensive medication analysis
As a patient’s number of prescriptions increases, keeping track of what the medications are supposed to do, when they should be taken, common side effects, and other important details can prove difficult. This is further complicated when factoring in non-prescriptions, herbals, supplements, and vitamins.
Allocate time for face-to-face meetings with patients during which you review the critical details about all of their medications. Answer any questions and determine whether resources, such as a written medication plan, pill organizer, and/or mobile app, may assist in improving management.
3. New medication education
In an effort to keep patients moving through the care continuum, it can be easy to quickly prescribe new medication. After all, once patients have been told their diagnosis, they are likely to assume any new prescriptions are intended to help treat that diagnosis. Furthermore, one might assume that such information would motivate patients to fill new prescriptions and take them appropriately.
And yet one of the eight reasons patients don't take their medications identified in an AMA Wire column is "misunderstanding." Build in time whenever prescribing a new medication to carefully explain the importance of the medication and the role the drug plays as part of the patient's overall regimen. Also discuss instructions, side effects, and how long it will likely take before patients see improvement.
4. Identify and recommend generics
According to a CVS Caremark survey, retail pharmacists stated that the high cost of prescription medication is the biggest reason why patients don't take their medicine as prescribed. While there are many ways to help patients reduce their medication costs, one of the easiest is to understand whether generic options are available for the medications you prescribe and then recommend these generics to patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration identifies three ways to determine if a generic version of a brand-name medicine exists:
- Check Drugs@FDA, a catalog of FDA-approved drug products.
- Search for generic equivalents by using the online version of the "Orange Book."
- Consult the First Generics List for recent approvals.
5. Provide education on pharmacy services
Many pharmacies now offer a variety of services — often complimentary — designed to help patients with their medication management and adherence. Understand the various services offered by pharmacies frequented by your patients and discuss with patients whether these services may be of value.
Examples of such services include:
- Text alerts and refill reminders
- Medication synchronization to align prescription fill dates
- Shipping of prescriptions
- Rewards system (a gamification technique)
- Mobile apps that can help with arranging pickup, payment, and prescription renewals