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How Pharma Can Tackle Medication Non-adherence

You may have the best medication in the world but it still won’t work if the patients don’t take it. And that brings me to one of the biggest healthcare problems today. Patient non-adherence. 

Patient reluctance to adhere to treatment is costing pharma companies an estimated 600 billion dollars every year.  Although pharma companies are trying to make a difference, numerous traditional, print-heavy attempts at increasing patient adherence have failed.

From disease complexity to low patient literacy, here are some reasons why adherence can be a difficult task, even for highly motivated patients. Also included are a few ways to overcome the problem and lower the risk of drop-offs.

People with multiple chronic conditions have the highest non-adherence rates

The average non-adherence rate among patients is 50%. But when preventive or treatment regimens are very complex, non-adherence can be as high as 70%. People with multiple chronic conditions are particularly prone to noncompliance since they have multiple things to simultaneously accomplish in order to achieve adherence.

In these situations, adherence can become extremely difficult without at least some kind of assistance.

pills and adherence

The severity of the medical condition doesn’t ensure adherence

Even if patients have lived through a life-threatening medical problem, it doesn’t mean that they will adhere to treatment. In fact, a recent study showed that less than 50% of patients who had recently experienced a severe heart attack dropped off their prescribed treatment less than a month after their attack.

Patients are not the only people in charge of adherence

What pharma companies often forget is the fact that many people can not take care of their own medication intake. This particularly goes for children and the elderly. In their case, medical adherence is in the hands of their caregivers (parents or children) which is why physicians should make sure to inform them about the demands of treatment. Otherwise, a lot of important details can be lost in translation.

Patients forget verbal instructions easily

Studies have shown that patients forget almost 50% of verbal instructions instantly. That should come as no surprise since people in a state of anxiety and stress (that often accompanies doctor’s visits) are not capable of fully focusing on what the doctor is telling them.

To make things worse, half of the things patients do remember are often misunderstood, due to the poor patient literacy and inability to understand complex medical terms.

Handouts, brochures, and pamphlets are equally ineffective

Low patient literacy is also a reason why giving instructions on paper doesn’t work either. Even if patients read the written material they’ve received, there’s still a possibility that they won’t understand the written instructions.

In Europe, almost half of the population suffers from insufficient or problematic health literacy. That means that they don’t have an understanding of basic medical terms. That’s why a set of visual tools like medical posters or videos or even online health reminders are more likely to get people to understand their treatment than instructions on paper.

Low literacy leads to poor health outcomes, such as higher rates of hospitalization and less frequent use of preventive services. Both of these outcomes are associated with higher healthcare costs.

Mobile management apps can increase adherence

Mobile apps can help people adhere to their treatment. These apps have many advantages for both patients and HCPs since they represent an easy and affordable way to stay in compliance with the prescribed treatment.

mobile health apps

Self-scheduling improves adherence

Cloud-based self-scheduling apps have proven to be much more efficient for scheduling doctor’s appointments than phone calls. It turned out that when patients choose their own appointment time they are 5 times more likely to show up for their scheduled appointments.

Non-adherence is a complex and multidimensional healthcare problem. As a consequence, many patients don’t benefit as much as they should from pharma therapy.

This often results in increased mortality as well as increased healthcare costs. Mobile apps and self-scheduling systems have proven to be the most effective tools for increasing adherence among patients. That’s why pharmaceutical and healthcare companies should definitely invest in these efficient beyond-the-pill solutions.

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