Patient compliance is a real problem in achieving effective outcomes from physician visits. Harris Interactive recently reported on survey findings that practices and pharacists should actively address.
A survey by Harris Interactive® found that patients’ lack of confidence in drug safety and their experiences with adverse reactions to prescribed medications leads to non-adherence, which includes not taking prescription medications as directed (non-compliance) and not filling prescriptions over time (lack of persistence). This study found that while the majority of adults are confident in their knowledge and the safety of prescribed medications, large numbers of people remain who are not.
Some of the specifics outlined in the release are enlightening: Just shy of half of those who have ever taken prescription medicine (49 percent) have mild to very significant concerns about their knowledge of these medications. A slightly smaller percentage (46 percent) of this group lack confidence that their prescribed medications are safe. Almost half (46 percent) of all adults – whether or not they had taken a prescription medicine – are concerned to some degree about adverse reactions (i.e. unexpected and severe reactions) to prescription drugs when taken as directed.
What does this mean? It means that between the physician and the pharmacist, no one has taken responsibility to adequately inform the patients. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, is one of the excellent and free services where you can direct patients. There may be copyright issues if you routinely print out from the site as handouts for your patients. You should put a link on your website for this resource.
For the top 20 or so drugs that you commonly prescribe, you can readily build your own set of handouts. These should be clear and easy to read, covering such topics as:
· The brand and generic name of the drug
· The dosage and when it should be taken
· What the drug is being taken for and what it is supposed to do
· How long should it be until a patient should see some results?
· What are the side effects and what should the patient do if they suspect or know that they are having a reaction?
· When should the patient be following up with you and how – office visit, phone call, etc?
I would also suggest that you – or perhaps through your local medical society – be in touch with local pharmacists, as they are equipped to do patient drug education and are generally viewed as being very ethical. Pharmacies will often give patient information sheets with the prescription, but I would wonder if patients are reading it and understanding it. Perhaps some better coordination would be worked out on a local basis.
Patients are going to the Internet to look for information, and there are a number of resources around. Good clinical care and good patient relations are well served by your guiding patients to reputable sources that can help them.