Are Your Patients Compliant With Their Medications?


Article Categories: Patient Care & Pharmacology

Do you talk to your patients about their medications? For many Medical Assistants, reviewing the list of current medications is part of the check-in process. You don’t need to be a pharmacist to ask a few questions to find out if the patient is following directions, and if you should notify other team members.



Why does it matter if patients take their medications as ordered?

Every single day, seven out of ten people in America take a prescription drug. More than 50% take two medications, and two out of ten of your patients take five or more prescription drugs! The more medications patients take, the lower their compliance (also called adherence) rate. Ultimately, their health and quality of life suffers.

Look at these facts:

• One-third of prescriptions are never filled, often due to cost.

• Up to 75% of adults FAIL to take a medication as prescribed, which can cancel the desired effect, as well as being dangerous.

• 62% of physicians admit that their patients are taking so many medications that it’s difficult to take all of them correctly.

• Failing to take medications as directed costs the nation about $290 billion a year in unnecessary health care expenses, low productivity, and wasted drugs.

As the MA who first interacts with each patient, you are in an ideal position to do a preliminary screening as part of your routine. As you settle the patient into the examination room, here are some possible questions to ask:

1. Have you started any new medications since we last saw you?
2. How are you doing with taking all your medications?
3. Has anyone taught you how each medication helps you?
4. Which medications are taken with food? Without food?
5. Have you noticed any side effects that bother you?
6. Do you have any concerns about keeping track of your medications?
7. Do you ever forget to take your medications?
8. Are there any problems with affording your medications?
9. Is there anything we can help you understand better today?

If the patient has any questions or concerns, or you notice that the patient may be non-compliant or need education, be sure to let the provider know.

Always be aware of each patient’s level of understanding, or “health literacy level.” Teaching should be done at the appropriate level, so the patient has the best chance of becoming compliant. Notice if the patient has a physical challenge, such as poor vision or difficulty swallowing. If limited mobility, such as arthritis in the hands, prevents opening bottles, ask if anyone helps dispense the medications. Some medications require learning a technique or skill. For example, the ability to correctly use an inhaler or give oneself an injection should be assessed.

As the population grows older and develops more chronic disease, adherence to medications becomes more critical. Your role allows you to be on the front-end of assessing the patient and passing along your findings to others. Asking some questions about medications can help everyone provide the best possible care.

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