Give patients medications directly at doctor visits to improve adherence

When doctors are able to give patients their medications directly during office visits, it increases medication adherence, a new study found.

In a two-year clinical study of 800 diabetic Medicare patients in South Florida, medication adherence increased from 17 to 29 percentage points using a physician-led automated point of care medication delivery system that dispensed pre-sealed labeled medications rather than sending patients to a pharmacy. By giving elderly patients their prescription medications at the time of their medical appointments with primary care physicians, adherence increased for hypertension, statins and antidiabetic drugs, according to the study published in The American Journal of Managed Care.

The study took place at five clinics in underserved areas in south Florida that were part of the Chen Neighborhood Medical Centers network.

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“The medical community has long known that lack of medication adherence increases morbidity and mortality in ways that also create up to $170 billion in additional medical expenses each year," Jessica Chen, MD, chief quality officer for the medical centers, said in an announcement. "We strongly favor having our physicians investing the time needed to truly nurture relationships with patients, including real-time discussion of each and every prescribed medication."

Use of the automated delivery system did not increase pharmacy costs and was well received by patients, most of whom reported a high degree of satisfaction and improvement in their ability to take their medications, researchers said. "Medication adherence is a vital measurement for physician performance," said the study's lead investigator, Ana Palacio, M.D., an associate professor at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, which conducted the research along with ChenMed, with funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

- read the study
- find the announcement

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