Helping Patients Remain Adherent During the Pandemic

Written by: Richard Waithe, PharmD, VUCA Health | President

It’s no surprise that serious medication-related adverse events, including death, are the result of patients not taking their medications properly. This is a problem healthcare providers battled pre-pandemic, and it’s especially important now.

You’re likely tired of dealing with COVID related news, but with this new normal, it’s imperative clinicians remember how important it is for our patients to remain adherent with their medications. As they are bombarded with news about the pandemic, they may lose sight of the importance of adhering to their medication regimen. Additionally, patients have new barriers to deal with, such as not being able to afford medications or even fear of going to the pharmacy to pick up their medications. Here are a few things healthcare providers can do to ensure we take on the challenge.

Encourage ways to save

There are a few ways to help patients afford their medications. Make sure patients are aware their pharmacist can call their prescribers for less expensive alternatives. Patients should be encouraged to use generics as they often think the “brand name is better.” Taking a second to let patients know that often there’s no difference in effectiveness and generics are usually more affordable. If equally effective generic alternatives exist, prescribers should avoid prescribing medications only available in its brand formulation. Also, for chronic medications being prescribed, prescribers should allow for 90-day fills as this is often more affordable than 30-day supplies. Lastly, sometimes calling around to different pharmacies helps with price. Some pharmacies, e.g. Publix pharmacy, actually offer some medications for free, which is really helpful for patients without insurance.

What have pharmacies done to help minimize exposure?

Pharmacies are doing what they can to keep operating while minimizing the exposure to staff and patients. It’s been no easy task, but pharmacies have adopted a few different methods to continue operations as safely as possible. Many pharmacies have begun, or made free, delivery services available to their patients. In pharmacies that have a drive thru, some have almost exclusively been operating as drive thru only. Pharmacies without a drive thru have implemented curbside pick-up.

Pharmacies that still allow patients inside have implemented physical barriers at cash registers to minimize exposure. Encourage patients to ask their pharmacy about these services, not only will this help limit exposure, it may help ease their fears of picking up their medications. Lastly, pharmacies have been increasing awareness of their medication sync programs available. Most pharmacies have a medication sync solution allowing patients to pick up their medications all at the same time, making it easier to make less trips to the pharmacy. So encourage patients to ask about getting on a med sync program at their pharmacy.

Being able to recognize and address these new barriers, along with reminding patients of the importance of remaining adherent, will go a long way in helping patients continue to get the care they need.