April 11, 2023
Caroline Ortiz, PhD(c), MSN, MPH, RN, NC-BC, an associate professor in Pacific College’s nursing program, was recently interviewed for Healthcare IT Today’s article “Helping People Take Their Meds”, the second in a series by Andy Oram about problems people have taking their medication. Up to half of all patients who are prescribed medications for management of chronic conditions don’t take them properly–or sometimes, at all; one in five prescriptions waiting at the pharmacy don’t even get picked up. The cost of this problem is vast: hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars each year–possibly as much as 20% of all US healthcare spending, according to one estimate. Read the first article in Healthcare IT Today’s series for more on this aspect of the problem.
Tackling the Challenges of Medication Adherence
IT solutions can involve reminders, remote patient monitoring, and offers of online connections with clinicians or caregivers; text messages, app notifications, and even gamification can all help. Ortiz discussed obstacles to adherence like anxious patients that forget or don’t understand their doctor’s instructions, or can’t understand due to a language barrier. Studies have shown that patients frequently can’t explain after their visit what they’re supposed to do with the medication they’ve been given: for example, someone may understand that they must take medication lower their blood pressure, but think that they can stop taking the medication once their blood pressure stabilizes. According to Ortiz, both the healthcare provider and patient need extra support to ensure medication adherence. Apps and alarms on patients’ phones can help, as can asking a trusted family member or friend to keep tabs on the patient’s adherence to the medication schedule.