Even under the best circumstances—a quiet office, no emergency needs—getting a new prescription can be confusing. Patients need to learn about the new medication, how it may interact with any other meds they are on, how to take it properly, and what side effects to watch out for.
Add in the stress of a busy discharge after an in-patient stay and it only makes it that much harder for patients to remember the what, when, and how of their new prescriptions.
In fact, thanks to a variety of issues, the American Heart Association estimates that up to 75 percent of Americans are non-adherent with their medications, meaning they don’t fill them on time. The reasons? People forget. They don’t believe it will work or are unsure why they’re taking it. They’re worried about side effects or drug interactions. They don’t know how to take it (especially inhaled medications and injections). And of course, cost is always a factor.
In all, says the New York Times, as many as 30 percent of prescriptions go completely unfilled. The result, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is an excess 125,000 deaths every year and up to $289 billion a year in costs.
As patient educators, public health advocates, and clinicians, how can we help address this problem? The answer lies in education.
Patients who understand their medications and treatment plans are more likely to get prescriptions filled, take their medications as directed (compliance), and fully participate in their own care. This has been proven in studies showing that interventions from teach-backs to customized education to direct counseling can make a significant impact on medication adherence.
At The Wellness Network, we offer several education options that have been designed to help with medication adherence and compliance. These include:
Videos on specific medications, including what they’re used for, possible side effects, and how to use them. These videos make it easy to provide standardized, engaging education on prescriptions in any setting.
Education on medication compliance. After patients fill their prescriptions, they have to take them as prescribed to receive the full benefit. Unfortunately, just like many patients never fill their prescriptions, a significant percentage are non-compliant with their prescription instructions. Our education includes in-depth teaching on strategies to improve and reinforce compliance.
Education that travels with patients. Patients may forget what they learned in the doctor’s office or during discharge, so we’ve designed education that can easily travel with patients. Our videos and print pieces can be viewed on any Internet-enabled device, and once a patient has access, they can go back and view it over, either alone or with caregivers. Integration with the EHR makes it possible to track and chart engagement as well, so clinicians will be able to easily identify and address non-compliant patients.
For organizations of any size—from private-insured corporations to large public health agencies to hospital systems and telemedicine providers—it’s vital that patients fill prescriptions and take their medicine as directed. It not only saves money, but adherence directly improves health and quality of life. By using flexible, comprehensive patient education platforms, you can take concrete steps to making it easier for your patients or customers to take their medicine.
 Prochnow JA, Meiers SJ, Scheckel MM. Improving Patient and Caregiver New Medication Education Using an Innovative Teach-back Toolkit. J Nurs Care Qual. 2019 Apr/Jun;34(2):101-106. doi: 10.1097/NCQ.0000000000000342. PMID: 30198943.
 Marcum ZA, Hanlon JT, Murray MD. Improving Medication Adherence and Health Outcomes in Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Drugs Aging. 2017;34(3):191-201. doi:10.1007/s40266-016-0433-7
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