Communication Key to Medication Adherence

Communication matters — especially when it comes to taking prescribed medications.

That’s the key takeaway from a new study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research – that patients who consider their doctors to be ineffective communicators are three times more likely to be medication non-adherent.

The study, which looked at 9,377 patients taking medications to lower their blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol, found that 30 percent of them who judged their doctors to be ineffective communicators were not taking their medications the way their doctors thought they were.

Rates for non-adherence were 4 to 6 percent lower for patients who felt their doctors listened to them, involved them in decisions and gained their trust.

Research has shown that medication non-adherence is a major health issue in the United States, contributing to worse outcomes for people who have diabetes and other chronic diseases, and to the country’s heavy healthcare costs. As reported in an earlier story, studies estimate that in the United States each year medication non-adherence contributes to approximately 125,000 deaths and costs the healthcare system $290 billion.

These patients were asked through questionnaires to rate how well their doctors communicated with them. Patient medication adherence was determined by measuring delays in refilling prescriptions.

The study suggests that preparing doctors to be better communicators may help improve medication adherence and ultimately health outcomes.

Another key point researchers found was that communication between doctors and patients didn’t necessarily have to be related to adherence behavior. Instead, adherence was improved if the physician established a trusting relationship with the patient and prioritized the quality of communication.

The work is part of the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE), which is designed to evaluate quality of care and to identify reasons for disparities where they exist. It was published by JAMA’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Source: University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), January 1, 2013

2011 Benchmarks in Improving Medication Adherence

2011 Benchmarks in Improving Medication Adherence provides actionable information from 162 healthcare organizations on their efforts to improve medication adherence and compliance in their populations. Documented in the impact of these efforts on adherence levels, medication costs, ER visits, hospital and nursing home admissions, risk of death and other areas of concern.

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