Take as directed: Medication compliance and the Compliance office

Working toward higher rates of patient medication compliance is a critical component of patient care. That includes communicating what the medications are, what they do, and how to take them. Providers are keen to ensure they provide clear directions and to be sure patients can pay.  

It’s no wonder they take such care: Each year, about 125,000 Americans die due to poor medication adherence, according to the American Heart Associationi. Improper compliance practices come with a hefty price tag of $528 billion in annual expenses, according to a 2019 OptimizeRx surveyii.  

What’s more, medication mismanagement is a strong predictor of hospital readmission rates. Individuals who failed to take prescribed medication as directed had a 20 percentiii chance of hospital readmission within 30 days, compared to 9 percentiv for patients who take meds as directed.  For the compliance officer, keeping hospital readmission rates low is crucial to avoid wasteful spending, per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid guidelines.    

So many factors contribute to whether a patient properly follows through with medication instructions. Providers and administrators alike do their best to put systems and communications in place that make compliance easier. While not within a compliance officer’s direct control, there are policies and procedures that can help hospitals comply with CMS requirements to lower readmission rates. This helps facilitate better health outcomes and increased quality of life for patients.    

So how can you ultimately help patients improve medication management skills? Here are a few tips you can include in your medication compliance plan to help reduce readmission rates. 

Discuss side effects 

Patients who experience side effects may stop taking their medication altogether; without discussing this decision with their healthcare provider.   

That’s why it’s so important for doctors to discuss common and possible side effects with patients.  

Work with healthcare providers at your facility about how they can discuss any treatment plan changes to lessen the chances of side effects. Make it known that the treatment plan may include adjusting the dosage or changing the medication altogether.  Cut Out Distractions 

According to BMC Health Services Researchv, three out of five patients often forget to take their medication.   

Are distractions the main culprit? Encourage providers to discuss the importance of taking meds at the same time each day.  

Maybe patients can use a cell phone alarm to set up reminders. Taking multiple medications at different times? The workaround may be to set other alarm times for numerous times during the day.  

To make things even easier on patients, providers may consider prescribing once-daily medications.  

Providers may consider collaborating with the patient on the best time to take the medications when distractions are at their lowest.  

Money worries 

Sometimes the issue of medication compliance comes down to cost. About 70 percentvi of physicians link high prescription costs to a lack of medication adherence.  

To save money, they may ration meds or not take them at all.  

In a study published in Circulation, viione in eight patients with heart disease didn’t take prescribed medication because of the expense.  

Luckily, there are resources such as GoodRx, an app that allows anyone to shop at local pharmacies for the lowest prescription medication prices.   

Doctors can also prescribe generic versions of meds whenever possible to cut back on costs.   

Communicate more 

Poor communication is a deterrent to medication compliance, which is in turn linked to poor health outcomes.  

Fortunately, Motivational Interviewing can help. With Motivational Interviewing, health care providers are encouraged to ask open-ended questions beginning with What, Why, How, and When during discussions about medication usage. This technique is shown to improve behavioral change and adherence, as reported in Perspect Public Healthviii.   

This PDF by The Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers provides more information on motivational interviewing.  

Medication compliance helps patients experience better health outcomes, reducing readmission rates and helping the hospital avoid tripping CMS’s indicators for fraud, waste and abuse. While much of the responsibility lies with the patient, hospital policies and procedures can help ensure the patient has the best possible chance to understand and comply with medical guidance.  

YouCompli helps healthcare facilities know about regulations, decide if they apply to them, manage policy and procedure rollout, and verify compliance efforts. Learn more 

i American Heart Association 
ii OptimzieRX survey 
iii 20 percent 
iv 9 percent 
v BMC Health Services Research 
vi 70 percent 
vii Circulation 
viii study