Overcoming Barriers to Medication Adherence: Helping Patients with Time Management

December 18, 2018 Jenny Glennon, PharmD, RPh


A patient checking his watch to see if its time to take his medication

This is the second installation of our “Overcoming Barriers to Medication Adherence” blog series. Read our introductory blog post to learn the common characteristics of medication non-adherence and how to identify the patient-level barriers to adherence.

The most frequent reason given for not taking medication properly is poor time management.  Many distractions get in the way of taking medications as prescribed; forgetfulness, lack of a medication-taking routine, competing priorities, complex medication regimens, no pill box or medication planner, or a busy schedule can complicate medication adherence.

A critical component of an effective medication non-adherence intervention is patient engagement and education, which enables patients to become active participants in the development of their treatment plan.  Health Dialog’s Coaches positively support patients’ medication-taking behavior by educating them on the benefits of proper medication use, creating a blame-free environment for discussion and empowering them to take medication as prescribed. At each interaction, they:

  • Educate patients on the appropriate use and importance of taking medication as prescribed
  • Facilitate refills at the patient’s local pharmacy
  • Encourage positive patient / provider / pharmacist communication
  • Identify patients’ attitudes, experiences, and preferences for shared decision making and communication with providers
  • Discuss possible side effects and review expectations surrounding medication use
  • Send educational material, as needed

Resources for Helping Non-Adherent Patients Overcome Time Management Issues (Unintentional Medication Non-Adherence)

If time management is determined to be the primary cause for medication non-adherence, Health Dialog’s Coaches may suggest the following resources:

  • Calendar / chart:  A simple medication adherence calendar or chart can help individuals plan and track their medication.
  • Pill box:  A simple pill box provides an inexpensive way to organize and track medications on a daily or weekly basis. 
  • Reminder apps on smartphone:  OnTimeRX, Care4Today, Dosecast, or MyMedSchedule can send “push notifications” to the patient as a reminder; some apps are designed to alert a family member or friend if the patient forgets.
  • Predictive refill programs: Pharmacies may offer automated refills, medication refill synchronization, refill reminders, and other pharmacy-based adherence tools and strategies.
  • Compliance packaging: Unit dosing, blister packaging, and multiple unit-dose packs or pouches all help to accurately organize medications for easy patient handling and management.
  • Automatic pill-dispensing device:  These devices can help patients with complex medication schedules, without the assistance of a caregiver.

Helping Individual Patients to Overcome Barriers to Medication Adherence Can Have Significant Population-Level Results

In an eight-month Medication Therapy Management study conducted by Health Dialog, we found that members who participated in one telephone coaching session vs. those who did not achieved the following:

  • 20% higher rate of adherence for members on hypertension medication
  • 15% higher rate of adherence for members on diabetes medication
  • 15% higher rate of individuals with diabetes filling at least one statin medication

In the coming weeks, we will address the specifics of other medication adherence barriers and discuss the tools and resources that can be used to help patients overcome them.

Learn more about Health Dialog’s medication adherence programs.

To read the full series “Overcoming Barriers to Medication Adherence” download our eBook.

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