Medication adherence, or the extent to which patients take medication as prescribed by their doctors, is a significant area of concern for both pharmacists and providers— especially when it comes to treating complex conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis. Proper medication adherence can mean everything from taking the proper dosage and understanding the directions to getting prescriptions refilled and taking medication at the right time.
In the past, improving medication adherence has proven quite challenging. With the help of technology, however, there are now more opportunities for pharmacists to be involved and to intervene in cases in which nonadherence is a concern. Specialty pharmacies support medication adherence with a range of helpful tools designed to remind patients to take their medicine exactly as their doctor prescribed.
This article breaks down the importance of medication adherence, the impact it has on patient outcomes, and the different ways that specialty pharmacies can help support it.
Understanding the Importance of Medication Adherence
Studies show that around 50 percent of patients do not take their medications for treating chronic conditions as prescribed, which poses a major concern. Nonadherence is problematic in a number of ways—it not only directly impacts patient outcomes, but also costs the health care system an estimated $300 billion annually. When patients adhere to medication regimens, they greatly increase the effectiveness of their treatment plan.
The Impact of Medication Adherence on Patient Outcomes
As surgeon C. Everett Koop said, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” Adhering to medication regimens is critical to ensure optimal treatment outcomes—and not doing so can have significant consequences for patients fighting chronic illnesses. Poor medication adherence has been linked to increased mortality and hospitalization across various disease states.
For instance, nonadherence causes around 30-50 percent of treatment failures and 125,000 preventable deaths per year. Because most specialty patients are prescribed multiple medications, not taking them as prescribed can lead to dangerous drug interactions and an increased risk of harmful side effects.
How Specialty Pharmacies Support Medication Adherence
Many specialty pharmacies offer medication adherence tools to better support patients who are treating chronic conditions. Below are a few key examples of the adherence resources that specialty pharmacies like Avella offer to patients.
Text Messaging Programs
Interactive text messaging programs are a great way for specialty pharmacists to help patients stay on track and take their medication as prescribed. Text reminders alert patients when it’s time to take their medication or when a prescription is due to be refilled. This method has proven to be very effective for improving medication adherence. In fact, our own study on the influence of SMS on adherence in the specialty population showed that the non-compliant group improved adherence by 29 percent.
Smart Pill Bottles
Smart, wireless pill bottles use lights and chimes to remind patients to take their medication on time. If a dose is missed, the system generates an automated phone call to the patient or caregiver to ensure they are using medication appropriately. This is also often followed up by a real-time call from a member of the pharmacy’s support team.
Specialty Care Coordinators
Specialty care coordinators check in with patients on the phone and work closely with prescribing physicians to discuss any difficulties or side effects associated with treatments. Some specialty pharmacists (like our sister pharmacy, BriovaRx) offer patients the option to schedule live video consultations with expert clinicians for additional support. Dedicated therapy management teams are also available for diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.
When it comes to medication adherence, the right tools and resources can make all the difference—and save lives in the process. Learn more about Avella’s free text message program for medication management and other approaches to supporting adherence.