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6 benefits of using technology to support patient medication adherence

What if improving health outcomes were as simple as encouraging medication adherence? A 2017 study states that of the 3.8 billion (4.22 billion by 2019)1 U.S. prescriptions written every year, approximately half are taken incorrectly, while one in five are never even filled at all.2 Even more staggering, an estimated 125,000 Americans die from preventable medication non-adherence each year.3

The reasons why patients don't always take their medication as prescribed are as varied as they are complex, from higher than expected costs and adverse side effects to unrealistic expectations and lack of communication with healthcare providers. The consequences of non-adherence range from exacerbating existing health conditions to prolonging hospital stays to disease progression. And in worst cases, a patient not taking their prescribed medications or proper dosages may prove fatal. Financially, poor medication adherence can climb as high as $528.4 billion a year in healthcare costs.4

  • 50% of all prescriptions are taken incorrectly
  • 1 in 5 prescriptions are never filled
  • Approximately 125,000 Americans die from preventable medication non-adherence each year
  • $528.4 billion a year in healthcare costs related to poor medication adherence

The good news? Thanks to advances in telemedicine (diagnosing patient treatments via telecommunication technology) and smart devices, managing patients' prescriptions adherence is easier and more effective than ever. These improvements may help save lives and reduce the greater societal burdens of many chronic diseases.

Here, we take a deeper dive into six benefits of incorporating healthcare information technology into patient practices for better medication adherence.

Help patients avoid sticker shock at the pharmacy

One frequent reason prescriptions don't get picked up from the pharmacy is cost.5

Real-time price transparency tools such as DrFirst and McKesson's Cover My Meds can let patients know their out-of-pocket medication costs and company assistance options before they even step out of your office. They also allow you, the prescriber, to discuss less expensive options upfront, including alternative therapies, as well as any available financial assistance.

Remind patients when it's time to take, refill or pick up their prescriptions

Electronic prescribing software can send reminder messages to your patient's mobile device when it's time for a medication refill or to let them know when a new prescription is available for pickup. E-prescription software can also help you monitor when prescriptions are dispensed or whether you've filled them at all.

A study containing the most recent data found that 81.3% of patients preferred electronic prescriptions to paper prescriptions, with a nearly 30% improvement in medication adherence and an impressive 60% improved pharmacist care.6

Collaborate more closely with your patients' support team

Technology options such as the Med-E-Lert automatic pill dispenser can help you work with family members and caregivers who receive an alert as soon as a patient misses a dose. At your patient's next office visit, you can discuss these findings, as well as any barriers related to proper medication use and adherence and how to overcome those obstacles together.

Monitor trends & show patients the impact of their medications over time

At-home diabetic monitoring and other remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices provide patients with helpful tools. The most useful are regular virtual visits, dosage reminders and custom medication instructions to help build trust between patient and provider.7

Meanwhile, providers can connect the dots between patients, the medical devices they rely on and the processed data can help providers tweak dosages and treatments as needed. Ultimately, this leads to more accurate and individualized healthcare while generating reliable data to understand what works best under real-world conditions.

Help prevent patients from misunderstanding or underestimating their disease

Some patients don't interact with physicians and pharmacists as often as they should, whether due to mobility, the COVID-19 pandemic or other personal reasons. This behavior may cause them to miss out on important prescribed therapies information. For example, what meds to take on an empty stomach, which drugs don't mix with certain vitamins or what medications interfere with other drugs and possibly cause adverse reactions.

Emerging tools in this area include smartphone apps offering a variety of features, such as:7

  • Simple reminder notifications (e.g., MyMeds, Round Health)
  • Customizable health education features (e.g., Medisafe, Mango Health)
  • Interactive systems that allow you to upload images of medications and can be programmed to send warnings and keep a detailed history of meds (e.g., Wellth App, Dosecast and Meds 360º)

Most of these apps instantly link patients and caregivers to educational content in their language of choice, giving them a better understanding of why it's so important not to miss any doses. If your patients still have questions or are skeptical of their prescription's benefits, you can answer their questions right away and put any myths or misinformation to rest.

Communicate effectively with patients who have dementia or cognitive impairment

Electronic calendars and smartphone apps can also remind patients of their treatment schedules, vocally guide them through all the steps and alert caregivers if anything is amiss. However, when using technology with patients with cognitive impairment, you must keep their perspective in mind and where they fall on the dementia spectrum, says registered nurse and McKesson Medical-Surgical clinical support manager Patricia Howell.

Sometimes, old school is still the best school. "The way you communicate can impact whether they take the medication, so make sure to be patient, sit down with them at eye level, and give one direction at a time," she says.

With the use of a few simple medication adherence tools and solutions in your practice, you can change your patients' relationships with their health for the better. 


Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only and is not complete clinical information. This information is intended for use only by competent healthcare professionals exercising judgment in providing care. McKesson cannot be held responsible for the continued currency of or for any errors or omissions in the information. 

© 2022 McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.