For many older patients, taking prescribed medication has become an essential part of their daily routine. It can often be the biggest responsibility they have to better their health or manage their chronic conditions. Although, no matter how long a patient has been taking medications, mistakes can be made, even simple mistakes such as forgetting to take their pills.
In some cases, even one missed dose could significantly affect the patient’s health. However, new medication adherence and management programs have been designed to help ensure these patients are following their physician’s instructions.
Medication adherence is one of the most important things for patients who have been prescribed medications by their care provider. Ultimately, it does no good for a patient to be prescribed medication they don’t take at the right time, or worse yet, not at all. We all know how difficult it can be to remember to take our medication sometimes, but taking them incorrectly or forgetting to do so could have significant consequences on our health and well-being.
Pharmacists are now developing new medication management programs to ensure patients’ adherence. Some exciting new projects have explored dispensing medication in packaging divided per dose, meaning that patients don’t have to think about their individual medications. Instead, they just have to open a single package that is dated and time-stamped, and take all of its contents at once.
Establishing a system in which all of a patient’s medications are provided to them on a synchronized date also eliminates the possibility of forgetfulness and medication errors. If a patient doesn’t order their refills on time — particularly if the refills require further prior authorization — that could leave the patient without their medication for several days and create the potential for a medical crisis. A pharmacy with a synchronization program eliminates that.
Studies have shown that effective medication management can significantly reduce rehospitalization rates. Physicians have reasons to prescribe medications to their patients, especially those with chronic conditions. More often than not, a medicine is prescribed with the goal for those conditions to improve, not worsen. If a patient does not properly take their medicines, they are prone to a hospital event. At discharge, patients are typically prescribed additional medicines, putting them at an even greater risk of returning to the hospital due to preventable medication errors.
The primary purpose of these programs is to increase the ease of administering medication for patients. For older patients taking several medications, it can become overwhelming to remember which medications are to be taken and when. While some self-administered solutions such as daily pill cases can help to an extent, there is still a level of reliance on patients organizing their doses as instructed by their healthcare provider.
One benefit of this medication management is that patient care costs will be substantially lower. With the average cost of a 3-day hospital stay hovering around $30,000 before insurance, it’s no wonder patients, insurance companies, and the Medicare program want people to stay out of the hospital. By taking their medicines consistently, all parties can avoid these costs.
By dispensing the medicine in packs that have the date time-stamped on them and contain the exact amount of pills a patient will need to take, the patient no longer has to take the time to plan out their medicines for the week. Pharmacies also have verification systems to ensure that the dosage is accurate as prescribed. In contrast, a patient filling their own pill case does not have anyone verifying that they did not make a mistake.
Communication between care providers and pharmacists can also have unexpected benefits. Pharmacies have the chance to interact with patients more times a year than a typical primary care provider. Metrics and data collected by pharmacists while conducting medication management can help physicians determine further courses of care for their patients. For example, pharmacists performing a counseling call for a diabetic patient can not only educate and coach on the prescription products, but also converse with the patient about their diet restrictions, exercise goals, or other topics in their care plan. If a pharmacist reports that a patient is unsuccessfully self-administering insulin, or that their diet plan is challenging to follow, the prescriber can adjust the medications or the care plan accordingly.
Additionally, for patients in ACOs and PCMHs, medication management solutions provide the benefit of ensuring they get the care they need, as well as when and how they need it. Although patients seeing providers through these integrated health networks are being cared for in a more collaborative way than traditional offices, the number of patients those professionals care for, and the metrics they have to meet on a daily basis, can quickly become overwhelming. Not only does medication management better assist the patients at home, but it also supports the integrated health networks by offering pharmacists and pharmacy based programs that can increase the quality of care their patients are receiving.
Patients should look for medication management services such as packaging and synchronization, and take advantage of these programs that can help them stay independent and age in the home setting they choose. Everyone can use a little bit of help organizing their medications, especially those living with chronic conditions. If someone has to take medicines, a medication management based pharmacy can help make it as easy as possible.
About the Author
Lindsay Dymowski is President of Centennial Pharmacy Services, a leading medication-at-home pharmacy, and co-founder and principal of The Centennial Group, a pharmacy management company supporting community pharmacies and health systems. Combining her over 15 years of pharmacy experience with her entrepreneurial spirit, Lindsay knows exactly what drives successful pharmacies, launches collaborative provider programs, and gets the attention of payers - and it’s not dispensing medications. It’s how well you can support an organization's goals to better health outcomes with patient-centric pharmacy care.
Passionate about the business of pharmacy and its future in healthcare, Lindsay has presented at national conferences, received media coverage throughout various outlets, designed continuing education curriculum, and currently sits on several boards committed to the advancement of the practice of pharmacy. Along with operating Centennial, Lindsay is a wife, mother and novice gardener.