Prescriptions and medications have the power to cure infections, fight pain and balance brain chemicals. However, taking the wrong pill or not taking enough can have catastrophic effects. Every year thousands of people mistakenly take or receive the wrong medication and millions more don’t take their medication as prescribed. It can happen at home, the hospital or a senior living facility, and it silently costs a lot of money — and lives.
The World Health Organization has estimated that up to 50% of people with a chronic illness don’t take their medication as prescribed and therefore don’t realize the full benefits of the medication. To make things even worse, they’re unknowingly helping to train the future generation of superbugs. Medication adherence is extremely important, no matter how simple your condition or ailment is. Failing to adhere to medication directions could potentially cause an even more pressing health condition. Some medications like opioid painkillers and ketamine for depression can also lead to addiction if they’re abused.
The issue of medication adherence can be largely attributed to three sources: the patient, their physician and the health care system. Of course, this is a greatly simplifying view — in reality, there’s no simple way to convince people to take their drugs as they should. Because so many factors can be at play, medical experts note that solutions to the problem must also be complex
However, modern technology might make a difference. Today, technology is giving patients more tools for managing and tracking their medication with the goal of improving the efficacy of prescriptions while lowering risk. Many of the recommended solutions are simple and readily accessible.
Use a Pill Identifier Tool
A pill identifier tool is extremely useful if you have medication that’s no longer in its original bottle. It can also come in handy if you want to learn more about a specific type of medication and what it looks like.
Just type the name of the medication into the pill finder tool and it will produce an image for reference. You can also use a pill identifier tool to describe imprints on the medication, color, size, shape, etc. to discover what type of pill it is. For safety purposes, you should only use pill identifiers that are powered by information from a reputable source, such as the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Use a Pill Organizer
Another simple yet effective tool for taking medication as directed is a pill organizer. It’s an ideal solution for long-term use of pharmacotherapy when a person is battling a chronic illness and/or needs to take numerous medications simultaneously. During these situations, patients are more likely to accidentally mix up their medications, miss doses and forget if medication was taken.
A pill organizer allows a person to segment pills out for each day of the week. Some pill organizers also have multiple compartments for each day, which can be used to organize medications that must be taken at different times.
Use a Medication Adherence App
Medication adherence has gone high-tech. There is a multitude of applications for mobile devices that are designed to improve medication adherence. The features vary from one app to the next, however, most supply essential tools for ensuring a patient takes the correct medications as prescribed.
Patients can input their medication information using the directions provided by the physician or pharmacist. A medication adherence app can then create a schedule and automatically send alerts letting the user know when it is time to take a specific medication.
Another common problem that’s solved with a medication adherence app is getting prescriptions filled on time. The first National Report Card on Adherence identified that this is a common problem in the U.S., particularly among patients that are over 40 years old. Apps can send reminders when prescriptions need to be filled along with information on pharmacy or pharmacist.
Talk to Your Pharmacist and Care Providers
You should always follow your doctor’s advice, but nowadays, pharmacists are now being urged to take a more active role in medication adherence. Too often patients pick up a prescription without ever talking to the pharmacist or even verifying the medication is accurate.
The 2013 Medication Adherence in America National Report from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) recommends that pharmacists make personal connections with patients in an effort to increase medication adherence. Patients are also encouraged to do the same. The absence of a connection between the pharmacist and patient has been identified as a chief predictor of non-adherence.
Open communication between pharmacists and patients at the time of pickup has also been shown to increase the patient’s understanding of how medication should be taken. When pharmacists and patients take the time to discuss the importance of following medication instructions and verify that the prescription is correct non-adherence is less likely.