From copays to car problems, patients have reasons for not taking their prescriptions. A lower-income patient with diabetes might struggle to pay what she owes each month after her insurance is applied, and stop taking her medications altogether. A patient with an unreliable vehicle and no access to public transportation may find it nearly impossible to get to the pharmacy, and fail to pick up his blood pressure medicine refills on time – or at all.

Patients in both these scenarios face a potentially life-threating situation. That’s why Walgreens is helping find solutions to these and other obstacles.

All about adherence

Medication adherence is when a patient takes their medications as prescribed, at the right times and dosages, and refills them on time. Staying adherent is important to the patient’s health, and to the financial health of the country: according to the New England Healthcare Institute, non-adherence costs up to $290 billion each year, one-third of which is due to patient hospitalizations.

Although taking medications as prescribed is ultimately up to the patient, Walgreens pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are trying to help tip the scales toward better health outcomes, with an arsenal of tools and resources and a lot of human interaction.

For instance, Walgreens pharmacy manager Anna Chen and her team in Richmond, Va., routinely talk to lower-income patients about financial services available, as well as Medicare Part D open enrollment for seniors, to help some of these patients bring their copays to a more manageable amount.

“We try to do whatever we can to help ensure our patients get their prescriptions on time, every time,” says Chen. “At the same time, we also try to help them understand why taking their medications as prescribed is so important.”

Financial constraints aren’t the only barrier to adherence, however.
“A large barrier for many patients is that they ran out of refills on their prescription and didn’t realize it,” says Alexandra Broadus, director of patient outcomes performance in pharmacy and healthcare, Walgreens.  “The pharmacy simply contacting a prescriber in a timely manner to get a refill authorization helps with medication adherence. So does having a prescription ready when a patient arrives at the pharmacy, so they don’t need to make another trip and potentially miss doses. Each action we take in the pharmacy can help our patients live healthier lives.”
Tools of the trade

Pharmacy teams help set themselves up for more adherence success by checking that they have correct patient contact information on file – including the patient’s preferred method of contact. From there, team members have several ways to remind patients that prescriptions are due for refill or ready for pickup.

“If patients haven’t picked up their prescription when it’s ready, we give them a call,” says Walgreens senior pharmacy technician Jennifer Rodriguez. “That really does get most patients to come pick them up. We also offer to set them up to receive email or text message alerts when a prescription is ready, because almost everybody gets email or text messages now.”

There are a host of other tools to assist with adherence, whether the issue is forgetfulness, cost or something else. For example, as mentioned earlier, Walgreens now offers next-day delivery of eligible prescriptions through FedEx in more than 7,100 stores nationwide. Patients who don’t need home delivery can still pre-pay with their mobile device using Walgreens Express™ and then pick up their prescription in-store in a dedicated Walgreens Express line to save them time. Additionally, the Save a Trip Refills® program helps sync up multiple prescriptions so the patient can pick them up at the same time. This prescription synchronization has been shown to improve adherence and reduce emergency room visits.

“Our daily activities and patient interactions at Walgreens directly impact adherence,” says La Vonia Cannon, healthcare supervisor for patient outcomes performance, Walgreens. “Our goal is to give our team members the opportunities and tools to become a trusted and valuable member of patients’ healthcare team, and play a key role in helping solve the nation’s medication adherence problem.”

Find out more about our adherence solutions.