Medical adherence is the act of taking medication as prescribed by a physician, which involves taking the proper dose, at the correct time, and for the recommended length of time. In order to achieve the full benefit of medications, patients need to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens. Patient non-adherence can result in adverse consequences to a patient’s health and result in additional medical costs and physician visits.
Why would a patient willingly not adhere to a medication treatment meant to provide help? It should not come as a surprise that the rising cost of prescription medications is a barrier for many patients. According to a Truven Health Analytics-NPR Health poll, 67% of patients do not take their medications because they cannot afford them. However, most physicians are surprised to learn that high costs account for only a small amount of patient adherence. Most patient non-adherence is intentional-based, resulting from such factors as a lack of understanding medication instructions or the reasons for taking certain medications, or confusion surrounding dosing schedules.
What impact does this have on a physician? A patient’s inability to follow a prescribed medication treatment should not create liability exposure for physicians. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If a patient suffers harm due to their non-adherence to medication treatment, a physician’s efforts in ensuring adherence may be looked into by the Illinois Medical Board. Given that physicians are believed to have a better understanding of the ramifications of a patient’s failure to pursue treatment, physicians are under a greater burden to ensure adherence.
What can physicians do to help? Physicians are in the unique position of being able to educate patients on the importance of continuing their medication treatment and can attempt to reduce patient non-adherence in a variety of ways. Physicians may openly discuss the patient’s ability to pay for medications and any barriers patients may face in gaining access to a pharmacy. Physicians could recommend generic medications of a cheaper cost or provide information about prescription assistance programs to patients. Collaborative communication between a physician and patient may also ensure patient honesty about any medication issues.
While steps to minimize risk may help physicians avoid liability, nothing is certain. Williams & Nickl focus their entire practice on licensure defense and helping physicians called in front of the Illinois Medical Licensing and Medical Disciplinary Boards. If you are a physician and have run into issues related to providing inadequate care due to patient non-adherence, our firm can help get you survive any inquiry by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.