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Medication Adherence: A Physician’s Role

A recent article in Medical Economics discusses a major challenge faced by today’s physicians: ensuring that their patients are taking prescribed medications correctly. In fact, non-adherence with the medication regimen is a common problem for physicians of all specialties. A lack of understanding, confusion, forgetfulness, and financial hardship often impact the patient’s compliance.

One recommendation MLMIC has to help combat non-adherence is to educate patients about each medication, including its name, appearance, purpose, and effects. This is something that a physician should do with every patient. The physician-patient discussion should include the potential adverse effects and interactions of each medication, and the importance of contacting the physician with concerns or questions. The patient and/or caregiver should be aware of potential drug-related problems that warrant emergency care and the importance of taking medications exactly as directed. It should also be stressed, with the responsible person, that it’s important to use only one pharmacy to obtain all medications.

From a claims perspective, patient non-compliance with medication regimens can be the primary cause of an untoward outcome. The Medical Economics article offers several suggestions that physicians may utilize to help ensure compliance. These include the use of “team-based care,” which has registered nurses performing medication reconciliation and recommends the use of a pharmacist as part of the team. The article points out that follow-up telephone calls to patients when they are prescribed a new medication may also help with adherence to the medication regimen.  We think these are valid approaches to promoting patient understanding of the importance of taking prescribed medications. If a physician, after reading the article, incorporates a team-based approach to the management of medications, patient compliance may improve — resulting in fewer avoidable complications.

For additional resources on medication compliance, policy holders may access the MLMIC Library here.

Posted in Dentists, Hospitals, Physicians

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2 thoughts on “Medication Adherence: A Physician’s Role

  1. Paul okosky says:

    the article is appropriate and excellent

    however with most drugs today being generic i would suggest that appearance be omitted as information to be retained by the patient as this may lead to confusion

    1. Thanks for your comments Dr. Okosky. We agree, it may be potentially confusing for patients when the appearance of a medication changes depending on the brand name or generic version dispensed by a pharmacy. However, from a risk management perspective, there are some instances where this knowledge may be beneficial to patients and providers, and potentially avert medication administration errors.

      In particular, patients with limited English proficiency, limited health literacy, and the elderly may benefit from gaining an initial understanding of their medication through identifying pills by size, shape, and color. As a patient’s understanding of their medication regimen improves, this may be less important. As you suggest, a change in medication appearance may only represent a variation in the generic version of the drug. However, it may signify an error in dispensing or dosing. Physicians may wish to instill the idea that it is incumbent upon patients to ask questions regarding a change in the appearance of a medication to ensure they are taking the right dose as well as the right drug. Patient education may be provided by a physician’s nursing staff while the informed consent discussion of risks and benefits of medications resides with the physician.

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