Ask the Right Questions to Improve Medication Adherence


Pharmacists can improve a patient's medication adherence by dispensing information beyond a drug's label.

Pharmacists can improve a patient’s medication adherence by dispensing information beyond a drug’s label.

Relying on study reports involving 6665 heart failure patients who weren’t taking their medications as prescribed, researchers from the University of Missouri measured the effects of 29 different approaches to improving adherence.

“Heart failure is a condition where improving adherence to medication can have a huge impact on patients’ symptoms, physical function, mortality, and health care costs, since taking medications is one of the key components of good heart failure self-care,” lead study author Todd Ruppar, PhD, RN, explained to Pharmacy Times in an email. “We knew that many studies have tested interventions to improve adherence to heart failure medications, but no work had yet synthesized the results of those studies to see the overall impact of interventions or to analyze the comparative effectiveness of heart failure adherence interventions.”

By aggregating the results, the researchers determined interventions that focused on changing patient behavior were more effective than those centered on teaching patients about their medications. Based on this finding, Dr. Ruppar said health care professionals must improve how they address nonadherence to medications with patients.

“Beyond asking if patients have any questions about their prescriptions, pharmacists might have a greater effect on adherence if they ask patients how they organize their medications, how they remember to take their medications, and how they would know if they missed a dose,” Dr. Ruppar told Pharmacy Times. “The pharmacist can then offer suggestions such as using a pillbox, keeping their medications somewhere visible where they will be reminded to see them, or working to associate medication-taking with some other habitual behavior. This can lead patients to see their pharmacist as not just a source of medication information, but also a resource for problem-solving.”

The study was published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.

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