Pharmacists’ Role in Improving Medication Adherence: An Overview

This is the first article in a series about medication adherence.

Pharmacists have the skills and ability to impact patient lives, both in the hospital by managing medications, and after discharge by helping patients understand the importance of medication adherence. Having the conversation with patients early-on about medication management and adherence helps the pharmacist become an invaluable member of the care team.

Regardless of being acute-care, community, or specialty, a pharmacist’s follow-up with patients after discharge is a primary factor in keeping patients healthy and out of the hospital. Numerous studies have shown that increased pharmacist involvement in patient care and medication education/management increases positive patient outcomes. Increasing medication adherence is a veritable goal for any pharmacist, with proven results such as reduced readmission rates and lower mortality risk.

The following key tools complement pharmacists’ patient care skills and enable them to remain involved with patients after their hospital stays have ended.  By utilizing these methods to manage medication and educate patients, pharmacists can help people achieve optimal levels of medication adherence.

Medication Therapy Management (MTM) helps patients get optimal benefits from their medications by actively managing medication regimens and by identifying, and resolving, medication-related problems. Patients that benefit the most from this service are those who are on several medications, have several health conditions, or have questions about their medications.

Post-Discharge follow up care is one way that pharmacists can most directly influence readmission rates of hospitals. This can manifest as post-discharge phone calls, pharmacist consults at the bedside, and discussions about medication concerns such as cost. While traditionally done by an in-house pharmacist, new partnerships with local community pharmacists have shown initial success.

Med-Synchronization Programs  allow pharmacists to work with patients and insurers to ensure the refill date for all of the patient’s medications falls on the same day each month, enabling the patient to only make one trip to the pharmacy. In addition to easing the burden on the patients, this also offers the opportunity to discuss a complete medication list with a pharmacist instead of each medication in isolation.

Adherence Packaging is a formalized, and personalized, version of the day-of-the-week and time-of-day pill containers that you can buy at the drug store. Rather than having patients self-sort their meds, adherence packaging allows for official pharmacists verification and sorting of medications, increasing patients’ confidence in their ability to take medications as prescribed.

Digital Reminders were found to improve medication adherence by two percent in a large test group of over 21,000 patients. While only small changes were seen when used in isolation, when combined with another adherence therapy tool, the influence of digital reminders on adherence is additive.

Interested in learning more?  Our next post will cover Medication Therapy Management and Post-Discharge follow up care.  We encourage you to share which method or combination of methods you think are the most effective in improving adherence.  What other tools/techniques should have made it on this list?

Additional Resources:

Specialty Pharmacy Times

Script Your Future

National Community Pharmacy Association

Every Dose, Every Day

Medication Adherence Resource Center


3 thoughts on “Pharmacists’ Role in Improving Medication Adherence: An Overview

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s