Taking meds: A strategy to stay well

You’ve probably never wondered about the connection between employee absenteeism and medication adherence. What could taking medication prescribed by your healthcare provider, and showing up for work possibly have in common? The answer might surprise you. But first, before we get to that, I’d like to offer some quick background information.

“What is Medication Adherence?”

For starters, medication adherence is defined, roughly, as the the amount of medication taken by the patient being at least eighty percent of the medication prescribed during a given time period. For example, if a patient is prescribed 30 doses in 30 days, then by the end of that 30 days the patient should have taken at least 24 doses of their medication. Why is this important? Well, it’s estimated that as many as 50 percent of patients in developed nations don’t adhere to the medication prescribed to them by their physician.

Sometimes we assume that just by going to the doctor, the doctor can take care of the health issues that we have, and conversely doctors assume that their patients take their medication as directed. This is very often not the case. Medication non-adherence can lead to escalating problems in the future, like repeat visits to the doctor or major health concerns, because the original health issue has grown worse. In fact, evidence suggests that medication non-adherence corresponds to a four-fold cost increase for healthcare in developed nations.

Some Ways to Address the Problem

The causes of this disconnect between patients and their healthcare specialists are many, and differ from patient to patient, and case to case. Some examples:

  • Low health literacy
  • Rushed consultations in the doctor’s office
  • Language or education barriers to patient communication

However, there are ways health care specialists can help improve medication adherence rates for patients:

  • Create a shame free environment in which the patient is comfortable honestly communicating with his or her provider
  • Offer a rationale for the risks and benefits of taking medication
  • Actively involve patients in treatment options and decision-making

  That Patient could be your Employee or Coworker

Getting back to the original question about taking medication and showing up for work, let me add some context. The number one cause of employee absenteeism in America is depression, which is certainly a condition treatable with medication. It’s not a huge leap of the imagination to assume that many of those who suffer from depression also struggle with adhering to the medication prescribed to them. Addressing the factors that lead to non-adherence is certain to lead to benefits in the workplace, as well as improve patient well-being.

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If you found this helpful, you may want to check out the following:

What Are The Keys to Consistently Taking Your Medication? 
The Top 3 Medication Problems in the Elderly

Author avatar
Kristen Engelen, PharmD
Kristen Engelen, PharmD, is the chief pharmacy officer of RxLive and a certified consultant pharmacist; she has over a decade of experience in retail pharmacy settings. Kristen became an RxLive co-founder because of her passion for geriatric pharmacy, with a focus on the intersection of pharmacy and aging.