In recognition of the key role pharmacists can play in improving medication adherence, the National Consumers League (NCL) has selected a community pharmacy located in the Birmingham, Alabama area as the site of one of its local Script Your Future campaign launches during a recent event.
NCL’s Script Your Future is a national multi-year awareness campaign designed to help patients better manage their health by encouraging more open conversations between health care professionals and patients. The Birmingham event, which was hosted at Homewood Pharmacy, focused on the important role that all health care professionals, including pharmacists, have in helping patients better adhere to their medication.
“Instead of wringing our hands about the problem of non-adherence, it’s about bringing together stakeholders and looking at solutions,” said B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, CEO of National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), a partner of the Script Your Future campaign. “Solving this nation’s adherence issue will require the effort of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, as well as patients.”
Poor medication adherence is a growing public health concern, and addressing the problem is particularly vital, as the number of Americans affected by at least one chronic condition requiring medication therapy is expected to grow from 133 to 157 million by 2020. Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans report that they do not always take their medication as directed, a problem that causes more than oneâ€third of medicineâ€related hospitalizations, nearly 125,000 deaths in the United States each year, and adds $290 billion in avoidable costs to the health care system annually. Because of their accessibility, community pharmacists are well-positioned to improve medication adherence.
“Research by the campaign and others shows that pharmacists are among the most trusted patient resources for information about medication and are in an exceptional front-line position to confront this issue,” said NCPA and Alabama Board of Pharmacy member Kenny Sanders. “We can help patients understand and anticipate side effects that might prevent them from taking their medication, can debunk myths or answer questions that patients forgot to ask their doctors, and can work with patients to find tools that help them make taking their medication a priority.”
The event brought together area stakeholders in health care, business and government, and consumer advocates to offer practical tools for patients to help them better adhere to their medication and to help health care professionals better communicate with patients.
A study released in conjunction with the event shows that nationally and in Birmingham, those patients who do not always take their medication as directed are less likely to have received a full explanation of the consequences of their condition, and are less convinced of the importance of adherence.
Communication between patients and their health care professionals is one key factor. The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, also found that patients view question lists, automatic refills, reduced coâ€pays and pill boxes as useful tools for improving adherence. Many of these tools and services are provided at community pharmacies.
“Script Your Future is working in Birmingham and communities across the country to encourage more conversations about the health consequences of nonâ€adherence and to provide patients and their health care professionals with a range of online tools and resources to help improve adherence among patients with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma,” said Rebecca Burkholder, vice president of Health Policy for the Washington, DC-based NCL.
The campaign features tools that include free text message reminders, sample questions for patients to ask healthcare practitioners, medication lists, condition management sheets, and fact sheets on common chronic conditions. All of these materials can be found on the campaign Web site.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who spoke at the event, encouraged patients with chronic conditions to speak with their health care professionals about their medications.
“Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals can help prevent many serious health complications by initiating conversations with their patients about the importance of taking medication as directed,” Bentley said. “This is especially important for people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure, who may have a number of medicines to take each day.”
Birmingham is one of 6 regional target markets in which the multi-year campaign is piloting interventions, outreach activities, research and advertising.