As a healthcare professional, you know that patient adherence to medications and treatment programs is essential to positive behavioral health outcomes. However, the question remains: What’s the best way to go about improving adherence rates?
Here are some of the biggest challenges healthcare providers face when it comes to patient adherence—and what you can do to solve them.
Challenge #1: Patient expectations and education
Whether it’s therapies or medications, a patient is going to have a harder time adhering to their treatment regimen if their expectations don’t align with reality. For example, once patients feel the benefits of therapy, they may conclude that it is no longer necessary, or a patient might become frustrated with the fact that their medication isn’t producing immediate results. All of this can end up making patients question why they should be pursuing these treatments in the first place.
Similarly, patient education can have a profound effect on how likely a behavioral health patient is to adhere to their treatment. Due to poor health literacy or a failure on the provider’s part to provide sufficient information, patients may not understand how and why they need to take prescribed medication, which often means they won’t take it at all.
Solution: Simply put, providers must not assume patients know everything about their treatment. To improve adherence rates, they need to provide patients with clear and concise instructions in a language that is easy to understand. When connecting with patients, providers should also seek to manage expectations through engaging in open discussions to address any misconceptions and providing easily accessible educational resources.
Challenge #2: Healthcare costs
Unfortunately, patients are often forced to pick between paying for treatments, such as medication, or for essential needs, such as groceries or their house bills. This can lead to patients using medication improperly to avoid buying more (such as taking smaller doses to extend the duration of a single prescription), or in some cases, high treatment costs mean patients cannot receive the care they need at all.
Solution: When it comes time to give referrals or prescribe medications, providers should look for ways they can reduce costs for their patients. This may involve utilizing tools that compare costs across multiple pharmacies or specialists, connecting patients with assistance plans, and prescribing low-cost generic medications when available.
Challenge #3: Patient-provider relationships
Much of a patient’s willingness to adhere to medications and treatment plans depend on their relationship with their provider, a relationship that is closely tied to patient outcomes. Poor relationships and miscommunications can have severe impacts across many different aspects of patient adherence, from levels of understanding to a patient’s willingness to attend appointments or take prescribed medications.
Solution: To improve not just patient adherence but the quality of care as a whole, providers must address key components of a strong patient-provider relationship. Patient trust (a patient’s belief that they can comfortably express themselves regarding their health concerns) is one of these fundamental aspects as it has shown to have a strong correlation with patient adherence rates.
In addition to establishing trust through asking questions, answering concerns directly, and more, providers should also encourage collaborative decision-making when connecting with patients. The more patients feel involved in their treatment plan, the more likely they’ll be willing to actively follow it.
Challenge #4: Patient support tools
A behavioral health or substance abuse patient’s treatment doesn’t end when they walk out of the doctor’s office. Outside of the office walls is where adhering to medication regimens and treatment plans is the most difficult, so patients need the right support tools to ensure they stay on track.
Solution: There is a wide range of adherence tools available today, all the way from medication organizers to smartphone apps, but providers need to determine which tools are best for each patient in order to effectively improve adherence levels and, in turn, patient outcomes. Providers should sit down and discuss a patient’s options for customizing their support tools so they receive added support that will actually make a difference.
Challenge #5: Leveraging available technology
With changing patient attitudes and a greater focus on patient-centered care, providers may need to rethink their approach to patient engagement. While pamphlets and other printed materials aren’t completely a thing of the past, one mistake providers make is not taking advantage of the wide variety of digital support tools that are available today.
Solution: More and more behavioral health patients are seeking out online resources to aid in managing their condition and making treatment decisions. Providers can take advantage of this by leveraging telehealth solutions when creating treatment plans. Using different forms of telehealth, such as virtual appointments, reminder text messages, and remote patient monitoring tools, providers can drive real changes in patient behavior.
Other tips for improving patient adherence
Highlight side effects: When educating patients on their treatment, make sure to clarify the potential side effects, being careful to dispel any unnecessary fears, which often cause patients to avoid treatment.
Simplify medications when possible: The longer and more complex a patient’s medication regimen is, the harder time they’ll have adhering to it. Reducing this complexity could include, for example, providing medications that require one daily dose (instead of multiple).
Connect with pharmacists: Establishing a rapport with pharmacists who often see your patients can improve continuity of care and encourage medication adherence. Pharmacists can also assist in finding low-cost medications.
Educate caregivers: Whether they are family members or professionals, any caregivers need proper education on the patient’s treatment in order to help patients maintain adherence.
iTether: More Efficiency, More Communication, Better Adherence.
Communication is one of the biggest keys to improving patient adherence, and with our fully integrated telehealth platform, we’re making it easier than ever. By using iTether, patients can easily connect with their providers as well as gain instant access to resources that encourage autonomy and promote better decision-making. Plus, the platform can be personalized to each healthcare organization’s needs, so you can better serve your unique patients.
Connect with us today to learn more about how we’re helping improve patient adherence through the combined power of human connection and technology.