Nav Search

Weekly Trend: Simplified Instruction Could Be Key to Medication Adherence

Last week, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield released a study reporting that a lot of upstate New Yorkers aren’t taking their medications as prescribed.

The survey looked at adults with chronic conditions, and in the past three months, only 58 percent of those surveyed took their medication as often as directed, according to ReadMedia. Of the non-adherent group, 17 percent reported having increased symptoms or complications from failing to follow approved regimens.

“Hundreds of thousands of upstate New Yorkers who have the conditions we reviewed are not getting the real benefit of their medicines, and there are many other medical conditions we didn’t evaluate, so the numbers are understated,” Mona Chitre, vice president of pharmacy management and chief pharmacy officer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, told ReadMedia.

About 23 percent of patients taking regular prescriptions said they rely on spouses or partners to ensure that they are taking the right medications on schedule. Patients forgetting or not keeping their medications with them is the primary reason reported for not complying with doctor’s instructions. And while this particular study was conducted in one concentrated region of the country, nationwide studies yield similar results.

Medication adherence may be low in diabetic patients as well. According to Endocrinology Advisor, the American College of Cardiology reports that even with partial adherence, cardiac arrest and heart attack rates were reduced. Yet, only 34 percent of high-risk diabetic patients surveyed adhered to medications, according to the study.

Dr. Kim Eagle, director of the Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan Health System, said the study was important because noncompliance and documenting adherence were both major issues with diabetic patients. He told Endocrinology Advisor that the results of the study did not surprise him.

“Study after study show that in conditions that don’t hurt every day, such as diabetes and hypertension, people think, ‘Why should I take this?’ It might be cost; it might be side effects; it might be a sense of not having control over the disease,” Eagle said.

This is where health tech comes in. MedaCheck recently raised more than $1 million for its medication reminder tablet for senior citizens.

The Ohio-based company’s goal is to help seniors manage their medications. According to Mobi Health News, when seniors or caregivers purchase the device, MedaCheck loads a list of the user’s medications and supplements into the tablet and ships it to the user. From there, MedaCheck works over a data connection and tracks the medications taken by the patient.

Many large companies are working toward solutions to make adherence easier for patients as well.

According to MedCity News, San Francisco’s First Databank is partnering up with North Carolina startup Polyglot Systems to develop the cloud-based adherence platform for medical centers and pharmacies in the U.S. and Canada. Polyglot’s “Meducation” program provides medication instructions for high-risk patients who may have low health literacy, impaired vision or language barriers.

“With medication adherence being a $290 billion annual problem, particularly among non-native English speakers, Polyglot is hoping to overcome significant communication issues that often result in hospital readmissions over missed medications,” MedCity News reported.

One of every three Americans is low in health literacy or has limited English proficiency. Providing simple instructions in 21 languages at fifth- to eighth-grade reading levels will keep adherence numbers and patient satisfaction up, says Chuck Tuchinda, president of First Databank.

Several medical centers have already tested the program, and hospitals saw improvement in patient adherence to medication regimens.

But health literacy is not the sole concern of medical professionals. Monitoring data is another key factor that influences the success of medication adherence.

Allazo Health uses predictive analytics to understand how to best cater to individual patients. Recently the company announced a new collaboration with Pharmacy Quality Alliance to work toward a more efficient way to measure adherence metrics, according to MedCity News.

The research partnership aims to evaluate health and financial impacts of medication adherence by monitoring patients.

“Hospitals face reduced reimbursement for readmissions, particularly for chronic conditions, and that has spurred lots of collaborations with health IT companies to develop ways to better understand the complexities behind poor adherence and how to improve it across different patient populations,” MedCity News reported.

Danica Smithwick

As a member of 1776’s editorial team, Danica Smithwick spends her time telling stories and communicating with others. She is a Union University and Washington Journalism Center student who loves…