Adherence is important to your patients’ health and to your pharmacy’s bottom line.
Medication adherence directly affects your pharmacy’s Star Ratings, the quality measures set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Star Ratings’ metrics emphasize adherence measures, especially for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
You can help your patients improve their adherence by encouraging them to overcome common hurdles to adherence, leveraging technology, and providing useful tips to help them remember to take their medication as prescribed.
Here are eight ways you can help your patients remember to take their medication.
1. Make meds routine
Recommending patients take their medication at the same time every day is one of the best ways to help them remain adherent.
One way you can make this happen is by encouraging patients to integrate taking their prescriptions into their current, well-established schedule.
For example, they can take their morning medications before they drink their first cup of coffee every day and their evening medications after they walk their dog. Eventually, patients will start to associate their coffee and their nightly dog walk with taking their medication, and it will become much easier for them to remain adherent.
2. Send a notification
For patients who have a hard time establishing a routine or don’t follow the same schedule every day, the smartphone in their pocket can give them an extra nudge.
If your pharmacy uses an app, it probably has a feature that can send alerts to patients via a push notification, reminding them to take their medications. Even if patients don’t want to download the pharmacy app, they can set recurring alarms on their phones’ clock app.
Offer to show patients how to set these kinds of alerts up when they come in to pick up their prescriptions — people who aren’t tech savvy will appreciate it.
A smartphone alert is ideal, since most patients always have it on them, but those who don’t have a smartphone can still set up alarms on their computer or even their old-fashioned alarm clock. With these recurring notifications and alarms, patients will be less likely to get distracted by their other duties and forget to take their medication.
3. Involve caregivers
Professional or family caregivers can serve as valuable allies in helping patients remember to take their medication.
Work with patients’ caregivers to set up a schedule, so they can remind patients to take their prescriptions. Having someone else remind patients to take their medications can help them remain adherent.
Patients themselves might have a hard time prioritizing taking their medications, but loved ones and professional caregivers will urge them to take their medications and stay healthy.
4. Think about packaging
If you offer adherence packaging, encourage patients to start using the service. With adherence packaging, patients can see their medication organized by time of day and day of week. When they miss a dose, it’s easy to see in the bingo card.
Even if you don’t offer adherence packaging, the way patients organize their pills can help them stay on top of taking them. There are many different pill organizers designed specifically with adherence in mind, usually dividing pills up between morning and evening for every day of the week.
Pick an organizer you like and make sure you always have it in stock to recommend to patients.
5. Perform a medication review
One reason patients might not be taking their medications when they are supposed to is that they are confused about what each drug does. A medication review can help them understand why each drug is important.
When you’re performing your medication review, you may find that you’re able to streamline and simplify a patient’s medication regimen. When you reduce the number of pills to take, patients will find taking their medications less confusing.
6. Start a med sync program
If patients don’t refill or pick up their prescriptions in a timely manner, they won’t be able to take their prescriptions like they’re supposed to.
Medication synchronization program makes it easier for patients to pick up prescriptions when they are supposed to by allowing them to pick up all their medication refills for a month at one time. Because it reduces the number of trips they have to make to the store, it becomes easier for them to stick to their regimen without running out.
Research by the NCPA found that patients using med sync programs were more than 2.5 times more likely to be adherent than other patients and 21 percent less likely to discontinue their therapies.
7. Increase visibility
The saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If patients are keeping their medications tucked away in an unused drawer, they’re going to be more likely to forget about them.
Pharmacists should recommend patients keep their medications in a high-visibility area, especially when they are adopting a new regimen and haven’t established a habit of taking their medication every day. Patients can place their pills somewhere they can’t be ignored—on the counter in their bathroom or on a bedside table, for example.
8. Make it self-care
A shift in perspective might help stubborn patients start taking their medications. Instead of making the task seem like a chore, reframe daily adherence as self-care. By taking prescribed drugs as they are supposed to, patients are doing something good for their body.
It may help to pair the habit with a small indulgence. Lighting a candle, eating a small candy, or washing their face with a special scrub. When patients view taking their medications on time as a bigger part of their overall wellness, they may start to treat it as something to look forward to rather than a daily hassle.
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