Medication nonadherence leads to billions in preventable medical costs each year. It’s also associated with thousands of preventable deaths, says medical writer Gerardo Sison at Singlecare.
The reasons for patient nonadherence to medication regimens are often complex. Comorbid conditions, socioeconomic barriers, physical and mental challenges, low health literacy, and other issues may all result in a patient failing to take their medication as prescribed. Even when a patient finds any one challenge surmountable, a combination of challenges may prove too daunting.
Patient adherence to medication protocols is best addressed at the patient level through the use of insights gleaned from patient-level data.
Targeting Nonadherence By Knowing Patients Better
Studies of nonadherence find myriad reasons any individual patient drops out of treatment. A study by Tutul Chowdhury and fellow researchers of nonadherence to the use of methotrexate (MTX) to treat rheumatoid arthritis found that patients’ reasons for not taking their MTX as prescribed include:
- Low education levels that cause patients to struggle to understand medication instructions.
- Low health literacy that obscures the reasons for a prescription or how to use it.
- The presence or absence of others in the household and how they help or hinder a patient’s adherence to medication.
- Comorbid medical conditions that can complicate treatment, responses to medication, or the ability to stick to a medication schedule.
- Complicated drug regimens, which may become more complex when a patient has multiple conditions.
- Payment issues, such as deductibles, copayments, or preauthorization requirements.
- Adverse side effects.
- Cognitive impairments that complicate the ability to understand or follow a treatment regimen.
Any given nonadherent patient may fall into any number of these categories. The precise pattern of how these factors play out may be unique to each patient.
Because reasons for medication nonadherence tend to be personalized, a personalized approach to addressing nonadherence is a must. Using patient-level data allows providers, pharmacies, payers and other participants in the healthcare cycle to target and address nonadherence hurdles at the individual level.
Tools for Patient-Level Data
Three challenges arise when using patient-level data to address medication nonadherence: gathering data, generating useful insights and communicating with patients to solve identified problems.
One way to address all three challenges is through the use of a single unified platform. A digital platform can gather data in a standardized format, generating insights through the use of onboard tools. The platform also provides a familiar common ground for communication and collaboration among patients, at-home caregivers, medical providers, pharmacies, payers and pharmaceutical distributors.
A robust platform also provides the opportunity to incorporate non-clinical data to analyze patient adherence — an essential tool when so many reasons for patients’ nonadherence to medication regimens are deeply personal.
In a 2021 study, Michael Sunday Julius and fellow researchers explored the creation of a machine learning network that could account for information like patients’ beliefs, behaviors and health literacy as well as clinical data points. Digital platforms that boost communication can help providers, pharmacy experts, and payers account for these individualized factors in a similar way.
Medication nonadherence is often a patient-level problem. To address it, providers, pharmacies and other healthcare participants need access to patient-level data and the tools to analyze that information effectively. A comprehensive platform can help gather data, generate insights and provide a consistent means of communication to support patients’ efforts to adhere to medication protocols.
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