Medication Adherence and Why it Matters

This probably seems like an obvious statement, but medication can only be effective if the patient actually takes it as directed. Clearly this is an important issue and one that is affected by a number of barriers depending on your patient’s situation. It’s important that providers take note of the reasons why patients may be less likely to adhere to the medication instructions you’ve given them and consider ways in which to ease those burdens so that your patients will get the relief they need.

Medication adherence is another way to say that medications are being taken correctly, or as prescribed by a patient’s doctor. There are actually a number of factors that go into medication adherence beyond simply taking the medication, including getting prescriptions filled, taking the doses on time, and understanding the directions given regarding the medications.

When patients fail to practice proper medication adherence, the conditions being treated cannot be addressed thoroughly and there can actually be additional complications along with a negative effect on a patient’s quality of life. This, understandably, leads to poorer health outcomes for patients. Additionally, when medication adherence isn’t practiced it increases healthcare costs, as the effects of non-adherence cost an average of $100 to 289 billion each year.


There are a number of challenges that can cause non-adherence with regard to medications. The first of these challenges is that sometimes patients simply don’t understand the doctor’s instructions with regard to the medication. Properly educating patients about the benefits of a medication along with possible side effects, risks, and instructions can take a great deal of time, and that is one thing that providers are incredibly short on today. This can lead to patients who don’t thoroughly understand their medication and the importance of taking it correctly. Combine this with medications that are treating a condition, for example high blood pressure, in which the effect of the medication is more gradual and not particularly obvious. This can lead a patient to think that the medicine isn’t working and tempt them to discontinue its use.

Another challenge to medication adherence is that of the high cost of prescriptions. Many patients, especially the elderly, live on a fixed income that requires them to choose between other basic needs, such as housing and food, and purchasing the medications they have been prescribed. This can lead to the patient never filling and therefore not being able to take the prescription.

Also challenging is the fear that patients can have of side effects. These fears can be the result of an actual experience the patient had with the medication or because of something they were told by a friend or relative, or even read on the internet. However the fear became an issue for the patient, it can certainly overshadow the benefits of the medication in the patient’s mind and lead them to avoid taking the prescription.

Finally, there’s the challenge of having a complicated medical regimen. When a patient has a large number of medications they’re taking it can be hard to keep them straight and confusion can lead to taking the wrong medications at the wrong time or in the wrong way, or even just forgetting some medications altogether. Some patients may also be tempted to simplify things on their own and eliminate the medications that they feel aren’t helping them as much as they would like, leading to incomplete treatment.


As providers, it’s important to do your best to make sure your patients are taking their medications as directed. One of the most important ways to do this is to educate patients thoroughly regarding their medications. This discussion should describe why the medications are important for them, how the benefits outweigh any side effects or risks, and exactly how they should be taken. This conversation should take place on an ongoing basis to ensure patients continue to be compliant.

It’s also important for physicians to be sensitive about cost issues when it comes to medication. Have a frank discussion with your patients about any financial concerns they may have regarding medication and look for ways to help them, whether by prescribing a less costly alternative or seeking out a discount program that can help them afford the medication they need.

Finally, talk to your patients about their lifestyle and do your best to make sure that their medication routine fits well with how they live so they don’t feel so inconvenienced by their treatment protocol. Try your best to keep their medication routine manageable and accept their feedback and adjust accordingly when possible.

Obviously, medication adherence is incredibly important to patient health outcomes, but there are also a lot of understandable barriers to complete adherence. There are certainly ways for providers to ease these challenges and help patients to be more compliant in their care. With this in mind, Henry Schein SolutionsHub offers SymmetryRX, designed to help you improve medication adherence. This product features a Sample Center which allows eligible prescribers to conveniently, safely, and securely order prescription drug samples online in order to offset the cost of expensive prescriptions. Another feature, MedManage, provides an innovative, cloudbased, medication and vaccine management system to safely and efficiently keep track of your patient’s medication and vaccine information. Finally, SymmetryRX offers a Savings Card that physicians can offer their patients for free to be presented at the pharmacy to allow them to get the lowest possible price for their prescription drugs. Are you ready to get set up with SymmetryRX to make sure your patients are complying with their prescription care? Visit or call 833-433-2482 for more information.