Breaking Down Medication Adherence

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Most healthcare professionals have seen firsthand how important medication adherence is when it comes to patient health. Consistent nonadherence can lead to further health complications and, in extreme cases, even death. In fact, a large portion of chronic disease-related deaths in the U.S. are thought to be the result of long-term nonadherence1.

Although it’s obvious that low medication adherence significantly impacts patient health, it also has a widespread effect on the entire healthcare industry as a whole.

How does nonadherence impact the healthcare industry?

Nonadherence to medication for chronic diseases leads to worse therapeutic outcomes, higher hospitalization rates, and substantially higher health care costs1. It’s actually estimated that low medication adherence levels cost the U.S. healthcare industry close to $100 billion each year1. Many healthcare professionals are asking themselves, “How can we fix this?”

First, it’s important to know that medication adherence can be voluntary or involuntary. The patient may choose not to take their medication because of negative side effects associated with one of their medications, high costs, etc. Conversely, they may involuntarily be non-adherent due to a lack of knowledge on how to properly take their mediations, or for other reasons.

How do I talk to my patients about adherence?

The first step is identifying which patients are non-adherent, and then determining if that’s due to voluntary or involuntary actions. For voluntary actions, offer to compete a Comprehensive Medication Review (CMR) with your patient to determine if the medications they are currently taking are working, are affordable, etc. This is a great opportunity to contact the patient’s physician and discuss any changes you believe might benefit the patient.

If the patient is involuntarily non-adherent, they might benefit from an educational review with you, where you can explain the importance of each medication and taking them as they are prescribed.

As the medication dispensing professional, you can play a pivotal role in patient care. There are countless opportunities in the pharmacy to improve patient care and patient health, like performing CMRs, MTMs, and other counseling services, all while positively impacting the healthcare industry as a whole.


  1. Albrecht, Suszanne. (2011, May 18). The Pharmacist’s Role in Medication Adherence. Retrieved November 27th, 2017, from

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