If your organization doesn’t have effective processes in place for medication adherence, it's time to take a closer look at the support you're providing patients.
As a Mayo Clinic Proceedings article notes, "approximately 50% of patients do not take medications as prescribed" and "medication adherence is not exclusively the responsibility of the patient." Furthermore, "increasing adherence may have a greater effect on health than improvements in specific medical therapy."
Frank discussions with patients about the importance of taking medications as prescribed and the risks of failing to do so can go a long way in improving adherence. But that's not the only tool in your tool box. There are many solutions you can recommend to patients that can further support your efforts. Here are seven medication adherence tools to consider.
1. Reminder Chart
As the number of prescriptions for a patient increases, the more difficult it can become to keep track of:
- when to take medications;
- what quantity to take;
- how to properly take medications (e.g., with food, with water, on an empty stomach);
- medication start and end dates;
- what medications look like, in the event they become mixed together; and
- side effects that should influence decisions made after taking medications (e.g., drowsiness).
Provide patients with a chart that includes these details, simplified a much as possible. Include on this form who prescribed the medication and this individual's/organization's contact information if there are questions or concerns. Here's an example of such a chart provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
2. Pill Card
Put the reminder chart in portable form by creating a pill card for patients. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gives you everything you need to get started, including instructions, suggestions for designs, and clip art that provides visual assistance.
3. Educational Videos
Help hit home the importance of medication adherence by showing patients an educational video. And there's no need to create your own when there are many accessible online. FierceHealthcare provides links to four such videos from Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Northeastern University School of Pharmacy, University of Washington School of Pharmacy, and HealthPrize.
4. Pill Organizer
One of the easiest to use tools that support adherence is a pill organizer. In its simplest form, these are boxes with separated sections labeled for the day of the week. More detailed versions include containers for each day of the week broken out further by time of day (e.g., breakfast, lunch, dinner, before bed).
5. Digital Dispenser
View this tool as a technology-enhanced pill organizer. These devices can include features such as automatic dispensers, audio and visual alarms, medication information display, and security locks to help prevent mistakes and multiple dosing. More advanced features include services that can call emergency numbers if medications are not taken, remote monitoring capabilities, and accompanying medical alert communication devices.
There are numerous options for medication timers coming in a variety of styles and with varying functions. Some are intended to rest on a table and sound an alarm when it's time for a patient to take a medication. Others can attach to or replace the cap of a pill bottle. Then there are those in watch, keychain, Lazy Susan, and pocket box form. Systems can even combine functions and integrate pill dispensers.
7. Mobile App
For patients who rely heavily on their smartphone, a medication adherence app may be the solution they need. There are many different apps to choose from offering numerous features. Options can include:
- education on adherence;
- scheduled reminders/notifications;
- quantity tracking;
- refill alerts;
- drug interaction warnings;
- adherence logging;
- gamification that rewards compliance; and
- notifications to caregivers of non-compliance.
Research apps on the market — perhaps even giving them a trial run yourself — and recommend patients consider a few that stand out. One option we're big fans of is Medisafe, which we selected as a favorite healthcare mobile app.