Are Your Patients Taking Their Medications?

When patients are discharged from the hospital, an important aspect of their care includes taking prescribed medications. The problem is that many patients are unable to fill their prescriptions, and if they are filled, many forget to take them or forget what their discharge instructions were in general. When this happens it can lead to unnecessary readmissions and poor patient outcomes.

There are a couple strategies that help to improve medication adherence and they can range from the following:

  • Sensors on pill containers or bottles that can help to trigger an alert for patients who have not opened their containers that day.
  • Daily text messages reminding patients to take their medications
  • Discharge instruction adherence programs
  • Calling patients to ensure they can fill and take their prescribed medications

Although any of these techniques can help to improve patients’ medication adherence, not all strategies are practical for hospitals to employ. For instance, sensors on pill containers would be an expensive undertaking if this is a hospital-wide initiative. It also does not help if patients do not understand the proper way to take their medications. However, this is a passive way for patients to be monitored without interfering with their daily activities.

Daily text messages reminding patients to take their medications can also be effective due to high text message open rates and the proficiency of cell phones across the nation. However, this may not be as effective with the older patient demographic. It also does not address the concern of whether or not patients understand their medications or if they are able to fill their prescriptions.

Discharge instruction adherence programs are ways to help patients better understand their prescriptions and why they need to take them. It helps to improve patient engagement, as well as, helping patients feel they have some control in their care. These programs can range from recordings to patient education to ensuring adequate interpretation during discharge. This however, does not address concerns over whether or not patients are taking their medications or if they are able to pick up their medications.

Manually calling patients can be extremely time consuming, and may not be the most effective strategy for ensuring medication adherence due to the high cost. An alternative to this is using automated calling to help identify the patients that actually need help. This will be most effective, if the right questions are asked, in determining where a patient is struggling – be it in understanding their medications, fulfilling their prescriptions, or actually taking their meds. Once this is identified, a patient can be called back and properly helped.

Right now there is no ultimate answer to medication adherence, but by using a combination of techniques hospitals can find the best “formula” to improving outcomes in their community.

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