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Medication adherence: Its important role in therapeutic efficacy

2 min read
Thomas Cowen
Head of Vertical Strategy - Healthcare and Life Sciences Conga
Nurse providing medication to patient

I’ve always been the task list guy in my family, who taunted my wife and older son, “please make a task list.” Therefore, it made sense that I oversee my younger son, Justin’s, intense medication regimen as he battled cancer. I managed his medication schedule to the minute to ensure we “stayed ahead of the pain,” as one salty Boston Southie nurse advised us. With my son now gone, I manage my two daily medications by placing them next to my toothbrush. Brush teeth, take pills.

What is Medication Adherence?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, Medication adherence, or taking medications correctly, is generally defined as the extent to which patients take medication as prescribed by their doctors

The American Medical Association states that patients are considered adherent if they take 80% of their prescribed medicine(s). It is estimated that adherence to chronic medications is about 50%
According to the World Health Organization, non-adherence can account for up to 50% of treatment failures, around 125,000 deaths, and up to 25% of hospitalizations annually in the United States.

Non-adherence can be dangerous and deadly, so why is adherence so abysmal?

The causes of non-adherence fall into several areas. Ultimately, the patient must swallow the pill or break the skin with an injection. Side effects and medical conditions are common reasons patients don’t continue taking their medications. Mental acuity and physical ability can be barriers to something as simple as swallowing a pill at a prescribed interval. Patient causes that are getting more attention nowadays are shame, health illiteracy and language. For 40% of people in the United States, English is not their primary language.  The nuance of medication dosing and complex pharmaceutical names and effects can be lost in the discussion.

The responsibility of the Physician and Health care team is now being better understood and managed than it was a decade ago. It is estimated that patients recall less than 50% of what is discussed in a typical medical encounter.  Factor in age, a patient confused, in pain, case complexity, and language can make these numbers are even poorer.  Physicians may need to understand the financial barriers for their patients to stay on a therapy. 

The third player in the Medication Adherence equation is the Healthcare ecosystem. I include not only the hospital but the payer, government, and manufacturer. Covid-19 provided our greatest example with governments, manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies providing access to a life-saving vaccine. In most cases, testing and vaccination were delivered at no cost to all, including underserved communities and third-world countries. Today’s medical system leaves doctors with a fraction of the time they used to see patients. U.S. Medicare patients see an average of 7 doctors in a typical year, which compounds the coordination task. 

The logic and recent studies show that improvements can be made. Communication needs to be frequent and consistent at and beyond the prescribing encounter.  Patients need to understand the effects of their condition, the dosage, frequency, and side effects that they may encounter.  They need to be encouraged, not shamed and assessed whenever possible. This needs to happen in their language and level of healthcare literacy.

Conga Solutions for Healthcare

Conga provides our Healthcare and Life Sciences customers with critical capabilities that assist in increasing medication adherence for their patients.

Patient and Provider Communications

Conga enhances the patient experience by providing document generation capabilities that serve as the valuable glue that provides medication adherence communications at regular intervals. These offer excellent opportunities to foster ongoing communication with patients.

The process starts with patient access and reimbursement. Pharmaceutical companies provide the forms and communications necessary between the patient, provider, and payer to assess and secure coverage. With the relationship established, documents are generated through Conga software that discuss drug side effects and how to deal with them and reinforcement on how to take their doses at regular intervals.

Learn more about how Conga can help your Healthcare and Life Sciences business today. 

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