Medication adherence is a critical aspect of any patient's treatment plan. Patients who do not take their medications as prescribed may experience poor health outcomes, including increased hospitalizations and death. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines medication adherence as the degree to which a patient's behavior corresponds with the agreed upon recommendations from a healthcare provider. It is estimated that medication non-adherence leads to an economic burden of $100 to $300 billion annually in the US alone.
Patient advocates, especially pharmacist patient advocates, such as Dr. Mosier, play a critical role in ensuring medication adherence. By supporting and educating patients, they can help their clients understand the importance of following their treatment plans and provide resources to overcome any barriers to adherence. This blog post will explore the importance of medication adherence, the challenges patients face, and how patient advocates can help their patients follow their treatment plans, leading to better outcomes.
The Importance of Medication Adherence
Medication adherence is vital for patients to achieve optimal health outcomes. When patients do not take their medications as prescribed, their conditions may worsen, leading to hospitalizations, complications, and even death. For example, a study conducted by the American Heart Association found that non-adherence to blood pressure medication led to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Patients face many challenges when it comes to medication adherence, including forgetfulness, medication side effects, cost, and medication complexity. Patient advocates can play a crucial role in helping patients overcome these challenges and improve medication adherence.
Challenges Patients Face with Medication Adherence
One of the most common challenges patients face when it comes to medication adherence is forgetfulness. Patients may forget to take their medication or forget to refill their prescriptions. According to the World Health Organization, forgetfulness is one of the most common reasons for medication non-adherence.
Medication Side Effects
Medication side effects are a huge factor in medication non-adherence. Patients may stop taking their medication if they experience unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, or fatigue. Oftentimes, side effects ease up after a few weeks, but if a patient does not know this, they may discontinue use. A patient advocate, especially one with a pharmacy background, is a great resource for explaining how the benefits of that medication outweigh the side effects. On the other hand, patients may be experiencing unpleasant side effects simply because they shouldn’t be taking that medication in the first place. Because side effects can occur as a result of medication interference, having a pharmacist patient advocate on your side is the best way to ensure you are not taking medications that interfere with each other.
Cost is another significant challenge when it comes to medication adherence. Some patients may not be able to afford their medications, leading to non-adherence. According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30% of patients reported not filling a prescription due to cost. A patient advocate can come in handy in this situation by providing their clients with avenues for decreasing prescription costs.
The complexity of medication regimens can also contribute to non-adherence. Patients who are taking multiple medications may struggle to keep track of their dosages and timing. Additionally, patients may be required to follow specific instructions, such as taking medications with food or avoiding certain foods or activities while taking the medication. Having a pharmacist patient advocate review your medication lists frequently can help you simplify your treatment plan. For example, Hope Health Advocacy can help you by organizing your medications into an easy-to-read schedule with notes.
How Pharmacist Patient Advocates Can Help
Educating and Communicating
One of the most critical roles of pharmacist patient advocates is to educate and communicate with patients. These patient advocates can help patients understand the importance of medication adherence, the potential benefits of their medications, and any potential side effects. They can also help patients understand their treatment plan and any instructions they need to follow, such as taking medication with food or at a specific time of day.
Patient advocates can also communicate with healthcare providers on behalf of their patients. They can ask questions, clarify instructions, and ensure their patients understand
the details of their treatment plan. Effective communication can help patients feel more confident and empowered to manage their health, leading to improved medication adherence.
Patient advocates can also provide patients with resources to help them overcome any barriers to medication adherence. For instance, they can help patients find affordable medication options, connect patients with prescription assistance programs, or help patients set up reminders to take their medication. Patient advocates can also provide patients with tools to help them track their medication, such as pill organizers or medication tracking apps.
Addressing Stigma and Beliefs
Patient advocates can also help address any stigma or beliefs that may be contributing to non-adherence. For example, patients with mental health conditions may feel stigmatized and may be hesitant to take medication due to the perceived shame associated with their condition. Patient advocates can address these concerns by educating patients about the biological basis of mental health conditions and the effectiveness of medication in managing symptoms. They can also provide patients with support and resources to help them manage any potential side effects and encourage them to engage in therapy or counseling alongside medication treatment. By addressing these concerns and providing education, patient advocates can help patients feel more comfortable and confident in following their treatment plans.
Medication adherence is essential for patients to achieve optimal health outcomes. Patients face many challenges when it comes to medication adherence, including forgetfulness, medication side effects, cost, and medication complexity. Patient advocates play a critical role in helping patients overcome these challenges and improving medication adherence. By supporting and educating patients, providing resources, and addressing stigma and beliefs, patient advocates can help their patients follow their treatment plans, leading to better health outcomes. As such, patient advocates must be recognized as a vital component of the healthcare team, as they can make a significant impact on patient care and outcomes.