Tom Michels: Why people need to stick to their prescriptions

Published 10:00 pm Sunday, June 18, 2017

Guest Column by Tom Michels

If you or a loved one are taking multiple medications, you might be hearing the term “adherence” from your health professionals. Adherence has a major impact on health outcomes, but most people don’t understand its true impact.

To better understand adherence — let’s break it down. Stated simply, adherence is the way we measure how well a patient sticks to their healthcare provider’s recommended medication plan. Or, how often a patient takes their medications exactly as it says on the label.

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This may sound like a simple task, but for most people, it can be an overwhelming one. In fact, it is estimated that up to 50 percent of Americans do not take their medications as prescribed. This leads to increased hospitalizations, higher healthcare costs and declining health outcomes.

There are many reasons people struggle to manage their medication. Side-effects, cost and believing that they don’t really need the medication are some of the many barriers people face, but perhaps the most common, is the fact that medication plans can be very complicated.

Take a moment to think about the medications you are currently taking (if you are not taking multiple medications, put yourself in the shoes of a loved one who is) and answer these questions: How many pills do you need to take for each dose? What days of the week are you supposed to take them? What time of the day are you supposed to take them? Do you need to take your medications after you eat or should you be on an empty stomach? What over-the-counter medications are you taking? How do the over-the-counter medications interact with your daily medications?

As you can see, the questions add up, and the more medications a patient is taking, the more complicated it gets.

After reading this, you might be thinking, “I know I have a hard time keeping up with my medications. But what should I do about it?” Thankfully, the first step to finding an answer is a simple one, and it starts with a conversation.

Stop into your pharmacy and let your pharmacist or a pharmacy technician know that you are looking for help. It is your physician’s job to help you find a treatment that works for you. Our role on your health care team is to help identify and remove the barriers keeping you from taking your medications as directed.

With our help, you can go to your next doctor’s appointment with confidence — knowing that you stuck to the plan! That plan may need to change from time to time, but if you stick to the script, your doctor will have a better idea of how the medications are working and if any adjustments need to be made.

Your pharmacy is an important, accessible part of your health care team. As medication experts, we can help maximize your doctor’s treatment plans and help you build the healthier life you are looking for. I encourage you to make the most of your pharmacy team by discussing your medication questions, concerns and goals.

Start your conversation today.

Tom Michels is a pharmacist at Sterling Pharmacy in Albert Lea.