A patient-centered approach to medication adherence

There is a wide-ranging list of reasons why patients may struggle to adhere to a medication regimen, so providers must develop tools and strategies that target each individual’s needs, suggest two Duke University professors.

A patient-centered approach to improving medication adherence is necessary to address how widely patients’ situations can vary, wrote Leah L. Zulig, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, and Hayden Bosworth, Ph.D., research professor in medicine, psychiatry, behavioral science and nursing at Duke University Medical Center, in a NEJM Catalyst blog post.

“There is no universal solution to improve adherence,” they wrote. “However, growing evidence suggests that combining approaches that are tailored to address a patient’s specific adherence barriers or challenges may equip patients with the understanding and tools they need to successfully engage in medication adherence.”

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For instance, it's not uncommon for patients to struggle to remember when to take their medications. In these cases, effective solutions may include pill boxes and calendars, or reminder phone calls.

However, those solutions don't help patients who may never pick up their prescriptions in the first place. In such circumstances, the authors suggest it may be more appropriate for providers to reiterate the importance of the medication and safe dosage when the patients return for an office visit.

Providers have used a few other strategies to tackle the common problem of medication non-adherence as well. Texting patients to remind them about their medications has shown benefits, and some providers may try expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists, who would then be more free to follow up with patients to ensure they take their medications.