Part 1 of this entry on medication compliance explored the disconnect between physicians and patients and the costs in both health outcomes and health economics on non-compliance.
So what are an army of pharmaceutical, medical and communication professionals to do when faced with a non-compliant patient?
1. Think of the patient as a person not a condition
A patient had a life before entering the doctor’s office and will have a life afterwards that includes but may not be defined by the particular condition that led them to seek care. As much as patient communications can honor and encompass a patient’s values, cultures, and life circumstances the more successful they will be.
¨ Will the patient’s family need to be involved in the decision to begin or continue a therapy?
¨ Does the method of administration embarrass the patient?
¨ Is there an alternative medication when taking another would, if taken as prescribed (with food for example), violate a patient’s religious beliefs (during a period of fasting)?
2. Educate the patient to make their own decision
If patient fully comprehends the implications of the disease or condition for their lives, including the risks and benefits of various options for treatment and nontreatment they can perform the personal calculus necessary to choose and value treatment.
¨ What is the timeframe for making a decision? Are there consequences for waiting?
¨ Would medication now avert surgery or other complications later?
¨ Did the medical research include patients just like me?
3. Provide tools/approaches for success
Even a patient fully convinced and committed to a treatment plan can fail if they cannot overcome an obstacle course of barriers such as cost, health literacy, and the vicissitudes of life.
¨ Does the patient’s insurance cover the medication prescribed? Can they afford the co-pay? Do they have a ride to the pharmacy?
¨ Is the complicated treatment regimen written in plain language? Once is one time to an English speaker, 11 times to a Spanish speaker.
¨ Would a multi-compartment pill box or alarm watch help the patient remember?
¨ Would a call from a member of the medical team a week after the visit make the patient feel both more supported and more accountable?
Considering patients not as passive recipients of medications but as full partners in developing, describing, and delivering health solutions can result in healthier companies and medical practices as well as patients.