Medication non-adherence: Tips to stay on schedule

Sticking to a regular medication schedule is difficult for everyone. Busy schedules and changing routines make it easy to skip these seemingly minor tasks. But for people with serious conditions, including recovering from an injury or managing a chronic illness, maintaining that schedule is critical.

When a patient takes less than 80% of their prescribed medications, they are considered non-adherent

According to the American Medical Association, 50% of the time, patients do not take their medication correctly. And when attempting to treat an illness, medication non-adherence can negatively impact the benefits of the medication and lessen its impact.

This non-adherence is usually due to forgetfulness, confusion regarding instructions and use, unpleasant side effects, or perceived lack of need. Another huge factor is cost; with restricted access to prescriptions and raised copay amounts, many beneficiaries simply just can’t afford the cost.

A growing cause for concern among many physicians and health systems

Not only does your non-adherence affect you, it also affects your providers. According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, medication non-adherence contributes approximately $290 billion every year in added costs to our national health care system.

If you’re like many seniors and take several medications every day, it is vital to your overall health that you develop a routine around your medications and stick with it. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you find a routine that works.

Steps you can take

Talk to your doctor

First of all, medication adherence is a very common trend — don’t be scared to talk to your doctor about it. He or she may be able to help you create a system that works for you, including limiting how many medications you’re required to take.

In one study, patients with a once-daily regimen were 72% more likely to adhere to their medications, as opposed to ones who were prescribed multiple doses throughout the day.

Use a pill box or calendar

That same study also found that outlining a schedule, either through a calendar method or weekly pill boxes, helped increase adherence. To do this, you can mark up your preferred organizer with what pills you need to take and when. It will then become a habit for you to come to your organizer daily to keep track of where you’re at.

Set reminders

There are a variety of ways you can utilize reminders to help you settle into a medication routine. If you don’t have a smart phone, you can write yourself sticky notes and put them around the house (such as by your toothbrush or coffee maker). You can also purchase a medical alert device that has reminder capabilities.

Here are ways you can use your smartphone to help with medication adherence:

  • Set reoccurring calendar alerts
  • Set daily alarms on your clock app
  • Download a pill-reminder app

With the advancement of technology, some companies are also utilizing text-messaging services to help remind patients of their prescriptions. With this, a patient can be texted at any time throughout the day to help remind them to take their medications.

Tie it to your routine

Some people find success in taking their pills along with another routine activity, such as brushing their teeth. You can keep your pill bottle right next to your toothbrush as a visual reminder. Slowly over time, taking that medication will become as second nature as your oral hygiene.

Note: If you go this route, make sure you’re still keeping your medication in a safe space, away from toddlers or pets.

When taken as prescribed, your medications should help you lead an active, vibrant life — not keep you from it. By creating a medication management plan that works for your lifestyle, you can remove some of the headache and burden that comes from handling your prescriptions.


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