The Pharmacist’s Role in Medication Adherence

The integration of pharmacists into primary health care teams is essential to improving patient outcomes. How do we make the best of it?

The role of pharmacists has changed dramatically in the past 40 years
, and they now play an integral role in the proper usage of medication. Pharmacists went from simply dispensing medication with little patient contact, to playing a central role in proper medicine usage and education, informing of potential side effects and adverse reactions.

the pharmacist's role in Medication Adherence

This transformation is primarily due to an increasingly team-based approach to healthcare.  Pharmacists have the capacity to facilitate better patient care and the key to better adherence is building up a knowledgeable and mindful relationship with patients.

The pharmacist’s role today

Pharmacists can help patients  understand medication, and set up frameworks to ensure they are taking their medication correctly. Pharmacy employees can also give patients tools, for example checklists, to remind them to take their medications. Therefore, they play a critical role not just in dispensing medications but in checking the medications for errors, making sure patients understand the instructions , and helping them understand the potential conflicts that exist with other medications the patient may be taking that their medical doctor is not aware of. These are all essential parts of the bigger patient care picture. 

Furthermore, a community pharmacist who has direct interaction with a patient, who knows him or her, has a relationship with the patient, knows the patient’s family, and can reinforce the importance of taking medications correctly.

Invest in knowledge, it pays the best interest!

Medication errors usually occur due to poor communication, poor procedures and patient misuse because of a lack of understanding of the drug they need to take. Furthermore, a  lack of knowledge and training contribute to medication errors, adverse events that are preventable. For instance, up to 25% of these events occur due to product name confusion, and 33% due to packaging and labeling confusion.

Incorrect drug use, as well as unused drug waste, are problems that entail higher than necessary expense, and indicate that patients are sometimes not properly medicated. One estimate puts the avoidable average cost of poor medicine adherence in the EU at €125 billion per year, in the USA between $100 and $300 billion, or 3% to 10% of total US health care expenditure . A 2011 global estimate of 186 countries  valued this impact to be at $269 billion.

Pharmacists are consistently regarded as being  among the most trusted members of the health industry and work  face to face with  customers more than ever. Their work depends on obtaining  correct information in order to give patients the best advice , and reducing the possibilities of mistaken adherence. 

Make use of technology

Pharmacists must be educated to be able to advise  patients in the best possible manner and  they are now able to utilise digital tools which can improve medication adherence. Those interested in learning can find a number of online courses that cover new treatment trends and medications coming to market.

Technology, data, and information support the transfer of knowledge, which is vital for pharmacists to do their work properly. They need access to the most recent and accurate data about the products they prescribe and dispense. After all, patients deserve the best advice.

A few platforms with educational content for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians:
CIG Healthcare Partnership
Bedrock Medical Communications
The Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE)

Additional sources:

1 https://pharmacy.uic.edu/about/news/story/1554/the-changing-face-of-pharmacy-40-years-of-change-in-the-pharmacy-profession
2 Aspden P, et al. Cronenwett editors. Preventing medication errors. Washington DC: Institute of  Medicine of the National Academies; 2006.
3 http://www.pgeu.eu/en/policy/5-adherence.html 
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3934668/
Nonadherence to medicines: the scale of the problem Rachel Elliott PhD, MRPharmS