Patient adherence is defined as the degree to which patients take medications as prescribed by their physicians. This can include dosing, frequency, specific timing and other important instructions—such as taking medication with or without food.
While patient compliance is essentially synonymous with adherence, compliance assumes that the patient is following orders, whereas adherence implies a physician-patient partnership. Therefore, the term adherence is now used more often than compliance.
A recent study from Quest Diagnostics focused on prescription misuse, and provided some interesting insights. A majority of patients tested misused prescription medications. Of patients tested, 63% were inconsistent in following orders given by their physicians. While a large number of the patients took or combined additional drugs without doctor insight, 40% of the inconsistent cases showed that no drugs were detected by lab testing.
According to a study from the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI), patient medication non-adherence costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $300 billion each year. One way that patient adherence might be improved is through utilization of health information technologies.
An article from September 2011 says that many technological platforms exist to help improve communication with patients via reminders, which can ultimately lead to better medication adherence due to forgetfulness. Some examples include:
- Smartphone apps that remind patients to take medication at the correct time
- Emails focused on product, disease or condition
- Automated reminder calls
- Text messaging focused on compliance
- Call centers that can handle inbound calls compliantly
Electronic health records (EHRs) with ePrescribing can assist in monitoring and improving patient medication adherence
Physicians who use EHRs and ePrescribing have a variety of additional tools at their fingertips to help improve prescription management. These tools can be used not only in person during an appointment, but also later when physicians need to follow-up with a patient. They also can help improve non-adherence due to forgetfulness, cost and other barriers.
Physicians can easily access patient-friendly medication handouts through EHR systems. This information can be given to patients at the time of prescription distribution. Additionally, doctors can use tools like flowcharts and graphs of lab results to illustrate the positive impact a medication has on their patient’s condition.
By providing patients with an understanding of their treatment plan and reinforcing the importance of adherence as soon as a medication is prescribed, physicians can help ensure that their patients are fully aware of the need for taking medications as instructed.
At the time of prescribing, physicians with ePrescribing tools can also check formulary access, allowing them to manage health plan complexities with tiered formulary alternatives. By choosing a prescription that is the most cost-effective for the patient, physicians can reduce one common reason for patient medication non-adherence—the cost concern.
With ePrescribing systems, physicians are able to electronically manage prescription orders and renewals. Providers can send the prescription directly to a pharmacy while the patient is still in their office, so the medication is ready when they reach the pharmacy. With the availability of today’s drive-up pharmacy windows, it removes the excuse that a patient doesn’t have time to wait for a prescription to be filled. In addition, physicians can respond to renewal requests from pharmacies electronically, allowing patients to refill prescriptions in a timely manner.
The Quanum technology platform from Quest Diagnostics offers ePrescribing, providing physicians with all of the benefits mentioned above.
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