In the era of value-based care, health care organizations of all kinds are working to find innovative new ways to improve the health outcomes of the populations they serve. From pharmacy benefit managers to health plans, to at-risk provider groups, the goal is the same—improve patients’ health efficiently while maintaining low cost of care. With adherence to medication regimens being one of the single most important factors in managing a patient’s health, many are looking for new medication adherence strategies as a way to drive population health.
Medication adherence challenges in patient populations
Medicare-aged seniors account for over one-third of the nation’s healthcare spending. However, they face numerous barriers to managing their health conditions. One such barrier is medication nonadherence. Many of the nation’s seniors struggle to maintain proper adherence to their medications due to lack of access. While mail-order services have solved the issue of transportation to pick up prescriptions, seniors seeking the advice and counsel of a pharmacist are left without the consultative care they need.
Lack of access to pharmacists also creates the potential for downstream harm to patients. Under the watchful care of a pharmacist, medication regimens can be monitored and optimized. This is especially critical for senior populations, 40% of whom take five or more prescriptions. Seniors without regular access to pharmacists to get their questions answered and medications monitored are at an increased risk for adverse drug events (ADEs).
Mental health treatment
One of healthcare’s most positive developments in recent years is the shift toward widespread recognition of mental health’s importance. However, despite a growing focus on mental health, medication adherence among patients for mental health medications still faces challenges. Because some mental illnesses affect emotions and mood, they can also influence the likelihood of patients to remain adherent. To avoid a cycle of medication nonadherence among patients suffering from mental health issues, it’s best to have regular pharmacist consultations to address concerns and proactively solve problems before they occur. During these consultations, pharmacists can also screen for potentially overlooked mental health issues and work with patients’ care teams to find solutions. Fortunately, studies show that regular communication on medication regimens can positively influence medication adherence.
Chronically ill patients
It’s no surprise that in chronically ill patients, medication adherence is especially important. However, what may surprise you is that as few as 50% of patients who take specialty medications properly adhere to them. Perhaps even more staggering is that 90% of the $4.1 trillion we spend on healthcare each year is attributable to patients with chronic conditions. Clearly, patients suffering from chronic conditions are in a position to experience significant benefits from improved adherence. What’s preventing these patients from being adherent? One of the main difficulties is the sheer complexity of their medication regimens and their medications themselves. The therapies used to treat chronic conditions are often costly and must be administered properly to get their maximum benefit. However, without the helpful aid of a clinician such as a pharmacist, this is easier said than done.
Top medication adherence strategies for improving patient outcomes
While the barriers impeding proper medication adherence can be daunting, there’s a silver lining. The US has hundreds of thousands of highly educated and skilled professionals up to the task of improving adherence—clinical pharmacists. Let’s discuss the three main strategies that pharmacists can employ to bolster adherence:
The logical first step of every medication adherence should be fostering patient education. Think about it: would you readily embrace a new medication if you were completely unaware of its effects and potential implications? Unlikely, right? When it comes to imparting comprehensive knowledge about medications, pharmacists stand as the undisputed experts. Pharmacists undergo rigorous training to gain an in-depth understanding of how various medications function and interact with one another. Armed with this expertise, they are exceptionally well-prepared to counsel patients, clarifying the mysteries of how medications impact their well-being. Furthermore, pharmacists play a pivotal role in ensuring patients are aware of potential side effects and guiding them on the appropriate steps to address any issues that may arise.
No education or medication adherence program will succeed if pharmacists aren’t able to engage with their patients. That’s why it’s so critical that pharmacists have the skills to meet patients where they are to foster meaningful conversations. Aspen RxHealth’s remote pharmacists are trained in motivational interviewing, an evidence-based approach that helps patients find the motivation to make behavior changes. For pharmacists, this can mean they help patients set goals to exercise, take medications more regularly, or check in with their care team when they have issues rather than ignoring them.
An integral component of engagement is empathy. To truly foster a long-lasting pharmacist-patient relationship, pharmacists must empathetically connect with their patients. That means avoiding parental or mandative language during consultations and substituting it with understanding and a friendly tone. At Aspen RxHealth, we believe in the power of strong connections between pharmacists and their patients. That’s why our technology platform pairs pharmacists with patients based on clinical and social factors including:
- Chronic condition and pharmacist specialty
- Patient and pharmacist language fluency
- Shared geographic location
For example, if a patient lives in New York, has diabetes, and speaks Korean as their first language, they would be paired with a New York-based, Korean-speaking Aspen RxHealth pharmacist who specializes in the treatment of diabetes. We believe in the power of personal connections, and with a community of over 7,000 pharmacists who speak 25+ languages and have over 65+ clinical specialties, there’s no patient we can’t match with a pharmacist.
If you’re a pharmacist looking for a way out of the stress and monotony of a career that no longer brings you fulfillment and flexibility, it’s time to give Aspen RxHealth a try. Learn more about how it works here.
Health plans looking for a better way to improve the medication adherence of their populations can take the first step here.