Medication Nonadherence: A Prescription for Disaster

The National Consumer League's ''Script Your Future'' campaign is gaining steam in its efforts to combat patient noncompliance.

It’s no secret that patient noncompliance is the Achilles’ heel of many a physician. In the old days, when it was customary for doctors to make house calls or follow up with their patients by phone, it was simpler to stay on top of medication adherence.

Nowadays, with the nation’s tremendous advancements in medical discoveries and treatments, physicians are stretched further than ever before. It’s an evolution that has created a paradoxical effect: doctors are now more susceptible to losing sight of their individual patient’s medication concerns or fears, resulting in a rise in patient noncompliance.

From a managed care perspective, the potential risk for compromised care and unnecessary costs are of huge concern—to the tune of $290 billion a year in additional treatment and costs, according to research studies.

In an effort to combat medication nonadherence, the National Consumers League (NCL) last spring launched a 3-year campaign called “Script Your Future.” (http://scriptyourfuture.org/wp-content/themes/cons/m/SYF_PressRelease_FINAL.pdf). The project, which includes partnerships from all facets of the healthcare industry, aims to encourage patients to stay the course with their medications through plentiful resources and sobering statistics (ie, one-third of medicine-related hospitalizations stem from noncompliance; 125,000 people die every year for the same reason). According to an Associated Press article published January 3 in the Chicago Tribune (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-ap-us-money--health-taking-your-meds,0,243122,full.story), the NCL campaign so far has had more than 100,000 people commit to following their medication treatment plan.

The bottom line is that the responsibility for medication adherence rests squarely on the shoulders of both physicians and patients. This is where technology can be employed to benefit both parties, through the use of communication devices such as apps, patient portals and electronic reminders. Of course, this is not an option for patients who are noncompliant because of limited financial resources or lack of insurance. For these patients and those with other concerns, such as fear of side effects, the most cost-effective solution appears to be a one-on-one conversation that can be achieved in-person or perhaps through telemonitoring.

The days of house calls are clearly over, but communication is a health tool that will last forever in some shape or form. And one would be hard-pressed to put a high price on that.