How Smartphones Could Be the Future of Medication Adherence
The Medication Nonadherence Problem and How to Solve It
Medication nonadherence continues to be a major problem in the healthcare system. If patients fail to fill or take their medication after it’s been prescribed by a doctor or physician, it could have serious medical implications. According to the CDC, care providers write 3.8 billion prescriptions annually, but around 20% are never filled, and of those filled, around 50% are taken incorrectly in terms of timing, dosage, frequency, and duration.
For many patients, filling a prescription can be a hassle, while others may simply forget to take their medication. When a doctor writes a prescription, the patient is largely on their own as soon as they leave the hospital or medical center. But if a patient fails to follow through on their prescription, it could lead to higher medical costs down the line. The costs associated with medical nonadherence have skyrocketed to $100 to $300 billion dollars a year. Without breaking down some of the barriers to medication adherence, this problem is unlikely to change.
Learn more about the complexities of medication nonadherence and how smartphones and telemedicine apps may be part of the solution.
Common Reasons for Non-Adherence
There are many different reasons as to why patients fail to take their medication, ranging from the intentional to the unintentional. From the patient’s point of view, filling a prescription and taking medication requires effort, especially for older individuals. First, they have to visit their local pharmacy where filling their prescription will likely cost money. Then, it’s up to them to follow the prescription guidelines as laid out by their doctor or physician. For some patients, filling a prescription can be a challenge. Here are some of the reasons why patients struggle with medication adherence:
- Patients forget to take their medication or follow up with their prescription.
- Patients rely on health misinformation, leaving them confused in terms of the benefits of their medication.
- Patients simply can’t afford to fill their prescription, especially if their medication isn’t covered by insurance.
- Patients suffer from a lack of mobility, limiting their ability to fill their prescription in person.
- Patients feel healthy and don’t believe they need medication.
The reasons for medication nonadherence are as unique and diverse as the patients themselves. Solving this problem requires a multi-faceted approach. The medical community must find a way to address the different reasons for nonadherence without excluding certain patients. This solution may include increasing access to accurate healthcare information, reducing the cost of prescriptions, reducing the need to fill prescriptions in person, and reminding patients to follow through on their prescriptions.
How Smartphones Can Help
As new telehealth systems come online, many see smartphones as a potential solution to the prescription nonadherence problem. Around 80% of Americans own smartphones. With a telemedicine app, doctors and physicians could send important medication reminders to their patients, encouraging them to fill their prescription and take their medication on a regular basis. Doctors can even schedule these reminders, so patients will see a notification on their phone when it’s time to take their medication or refill their prescription.
Doctors can also use apps to send their patients important information about the medication they’re taking. If patients are unwilling to take their medication or skeptical of its benefits, doctors can answer their questions in real-time to curb the spread of misinformation.
New prescription fulfillment and delivery services are increasing in popularity. As these services become more available, patients will be able to order their prescriptions online using a telemedicine app and have them delivered to their home. Thus, reducing the need to fulfill prescriptions in person, which can be an issue for some patients.
Lowering the cost of prescription medications continues to be an issue in the healthcare community. While smartphones and telehealth may help lower the overall cost of care, reducing the cost of individual prescriptions is a more elusive problem. Pharmaceutical companies should make an effort to keep their costs low, while state and federal legislators should do everything they can to hold these companies accountable if they’re overcharging their customers. Insurance companies can also work towards covering more of the cost of medication, so patients don’t have to spend as much money.
Medication nonadherence is a complicated problem. Patients fail to take their medication for a variety of reasons. While smartphones might not entirely eliminate this issue, they can help increase medication adherence rates in the years to come. Doctors can send patients reminders and information in real-time, and some patients can even order their medication online. It’s all about reducing barriers and making the fulfillment process as convenient as possible.