Medication Compliance: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Medication compliance. It’s a term that pharmacists, doctors, and other healthcare providers use frequently, but it may be unfamiliar to many patients. The International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) defines medication compliance as “the act of taking medication on schedule or taking medication as prescribed, to achieve the desired health benefit (i.e., following a healthcare professional's advice)¹.”
When a patient takes their medication as prescribed, it allows their health care team to assess how well the medication is working and if any changes or adjustments should be made. In turn, patients can achieve optimal health outcomes from the medication they are taking.
However, taking medications as prescribed isn’t always as easy as it sounds in theory. When life gets busy or medication regimens get too complicated, compliance can be hard to maintain. According to the National Library of Medicine, “seventy-five percent of Americans have trouble taking their medicine as directed. Estimates are that approximately 125,000 deaths per year in the United States are due to medication nonadherence and that 33% to 69% of medication-related hospital admissions are due to poor adherence².”
To maximize the benefits of your medication and mitigate the potentially life-threatening side effects of noncompliance, talk to your local pharmacy about the following services:
Medication synchronization is an easy, convenient, and free service offered by most local pharmacies. If you are someone who takes multiple medications and makes multiple trips to the pharmacy each month to pick them up, consider synching your medications. This means that your pharmacist will make all your refills due on the same day each month and automatically refill them.
A 2018 study by Harvard Medical School found that patients on med sync programs improved compliance by 8% compared to non-synced patients. In the same study, patients on medication synchronization programs had lower rates of outpatient visits, hospitalization, and emergency department visits³.
Medication synchronization doesn’t just mean improved compliance—It also means no more calling in refills, fewer trips to the pharmacy, and knowing your medications will always be ready on the same date each month.
Medication packaging improves medication compliance by organizing all your medications by date and time, making it easier to manage complex medication regimens and avoid missed or doubled doses. When you sign up for a med packaging program, your pharmacist ensures that all your meds are organized properly before you leave the pharmacy so patients and caregivers don’t have to fill a pillbox each week.
McKesson Corporation, a common pharmaceutical wholesaler, explains the top five ways packaging improves compliance⁴:
Makes it easier for patients to get all their drugs in a single container rather than in multiple bottles and packages
Allows patients to get their drugs before discharge at an outpatient pharmacy
Makes it easier for patients to take the right drugs at the right time instead of having to remember their regimen, especially when they’re sick
Creates a seamless continuum of care by improving coordination between prescribers and pharmacists, eliminating gaps in care that can worsen health outcomes
Results in a better patient experience that drives engagement and better health outcomes
Each pack typically comes labeled with the patients’ name, medication name, date, and time of day the medication should be taken. Talk with your local pharmacy team to learn more about their medication packaging options, which can be coordinated to work in tandem with medication synchronization.
The benefits of one-on-one medication reviews with a healthcare provider can’t be understated. VMDA Regina M. Benjamin, 18th U.S. surgeon general from 2009 to 2013, writes “as a family physician in rural Alabama, I often treated patients whose primary reason for taking their medications incorrectly was not understanding the instructions. Proper medication adherence starts with conversations².”
During a medication review, a patient will meet with their pharmacist to discuss the medications they have been prescribed, how to take their meds properly, and how to avoid negative side effects and drug interactions. It is recommended that patients who take more than four medications schedule an annual medication review.
Medication delivery makes it easier for patients to acquire their medications, especially patients who may have mobility issues or live in rural areas. Delivery is also a viable option for patients who may not be compliant because they are deterred by long waits at the pharmacy or bad weather. Many independent pharmacies offer free local delivery to homes or offices, which cuts down on patient trips to the pharmacy and ensures that they receive their refills on the time.
Your local pharmacy team is dedicated to helping patients achieve optimal health outcomes through improved medication compliance. We do this by providing services that make it easier for patients to acquire their prescriptions, organize their meds, and manage and understand their regimens. If you have any questions about the ways that your pharmacy can help you stick to your medication routine, prevent the dangers of noncompliance, and take the stress out of managing your health, give us a call or stop by today!