You may hear your doctor or pharmacist preach to you about medication adherence, but what does that mean? Simply put it is just taking your medications as prescribed. Medication adherence rates of 80% or more are needed for optimal therapeutic efficacy. However, it is estimated that adherence to chronic medications is only around 50%.
According to the Annals of Internal Medicine failure to take medications as prescribed results in an estimated 125,000 deaths annually and at least 10% of hospitalizations. The financial cost of medication nonadherence has been estimated at as much as $289 billion annually. Increasing medication adherence may have a greater impact on health and wellness than any other medical intervention.
Adherence rates tend to go down as time passes after the initial prescription is written. Barriers to adherence may include factors such as getting prescriptions filled, remembering to take medication on time, and understanding the directions on all the bottles. Many pharmacies offer automatic refill options, and some will even mail medications directly to your home which can relieve much of the burden associated with obtaining refills. Some medication schedules can be complicated which makes it harder to stay on schedule every day. If you find it is difficult to follow the instructions on your medications or forget to take them on time every day you may benefit from tools such as medication reminders or automated medication dispensing systems.
Sometimes people may even quit taking a medication all together due to adverse side effects. While it is understandable why a person may do this, it can be extremely dangerous. Before you quit taking any medication it is critical that you talk with your doctor or pharmacist first. If you are suffering from side effects they may be able to alter the dose or prescribe an alternative that that will work better for you.
Knowing that taking your medications appropriately can make all the difference in terms of health outcomes, it is important to come up with a system that works for you. Some people will do just fine with a medi-set, others may need to set up an automatic cycle fill, many would benefit from technologies like medication dispensers or automated reminders and others still may need greater levels of help in an assisted living setting. By taking the time to set up a system that works for you, you will likely benefit in terms of better health and quality of life.
Ty Strahl is the areas leading senior adviser. Her job is to help you navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.