We recently published a blog post on the top six patient-reported barriers to medication adherence. As mentioned in that article, the sixth most prevalent barrier for the long-standing client whose population we analyzed was cost and financial concerns. Many believe, or assume, that the high cost of prescriptions is the primary factor that leads to medication nonadherence. However, Health Dialog’s research shows that cost may not be as prohibitive as other barriers, such as time management skills or provider-related issues, which will be discussed later in this series.
What we did find, however, is that many consumers may not actually prioritize spending their money on medications over other lifestyle expenses. In a poll we conducted on Twitter, we asked our consumer audience what they would buy if they could only afford one of the following: a smartphone, coffee, internet access or their prescribed medications. Many consumers (37%) chose their smartphone above all else, including prescribed medications, which was prioritized by 25% of our audience. Internet access came in at a close third place with 23% of the votes and coffee at 15%.*
Overcoming Financial Barriers
Assessing whether cost constraints are actually impacting medication adherence can be challenging. For instance, some people may be too embarrassed to admit to their healthcare provider that they can’t afford their medications. Additionally, there’s more than the cost of the medication itself to consider. There’s the cost of regular healthcare visits or even potentially picking up the prescription when transportation is an issue. Health Dialog’s Care Navigators are specifically trained to ask questions that help uncover clues, such as specific word cues used by members that point to the true barrier to medication adherence. This investigative approach is especially helpful when dealing with people who struggle to pay for their prescriptions or healthcare needs.
When one of our Care Navigators learns that financial and cost constraints are preventing a member from sticking with a medication regimen, they may suggest the following:
- Consider asking the provider for samples or coupons for medications
- Increase the prescription to a 90-day supply instead of 30-day fill to reduce copays
- Suggest mail order service to prevent trips to the pharmacy, if costly transportation is part of the issue
- Recommend discussing lower cost alternatives or combination medications with the provider
- Suggest other cost reduction resources, such as:
Having specially trained coaches, like our Care Navigators, who can accurately determine the reason for medication nonadherence and provide appropriate solutions can help people increase their medication adherence, improving their health and reducing costs from complications.
In the next installment in our blog series “Top Six Barriers to Medication Adherence,” we will discuss side effects and how to manage them.
* Twitter poll completed November 28, 2018, with 2,722 responses