Knowledge Gaps: A Top Barrier to Medication Adherence

This is the sixth installment of our “Top Six Barriers to Medication Adherence” blog series. Read our introductory blog post, the article on cost and financial concerns, the post on side effects, the article on motivational gaps or the discussion on provider-related issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information.[1] Similarly, in an analysis we conducted, Health Dialog found that approximately 11% of people may not be adherent to their prescriptions because of knowledge gaps.

Knowledge gaps can derive from a variety of unique scenarios, such as:

  • If the prescription label and instructions have a great deal of clinical information that is confusing or overwhelming
  • If the provider doesn’t have adequate time to provide details about the benefits of medications and the importance of taking them correctly
  • If the patient doesn’t speak English and no one takes the time to inform him or her about how to use a medication properly
  • If the patient’s cultural background lends to a mistrust of doctors and he or she doesn’t believe the medication is really necessary
  • If the physician uses jargon-filled language and the patient is too embarrassed to admit they don’t understand
  • If the patient is fearful of their condition and doesn’t ask the right questions because they’re afraid to know the answers
  • If the individual takes many other medications and doesn’t know how to fit “another pill” into their daily regimen

Overcoming Knowledge Gaps

There are a number of steps care teams can take to help people overcome knowledge gaps in medication adherence. These include:

  • Assessing a member's health literacy
  • Identifying the knowledge gaps a member has regarding their medication(s)
  • Clearly addressing the purpose, correct use and benefits of taking medication, and consequences of nonadherence with simple, jargon-free language
  • Involving patients in the medication decision-making process
  • Providing awareness about proper disease state management with health education tools, including online and printed information
  • Discussing concerns about medication side effects in a straightforward manner
  • Taking into consideration cultural differences and social determinants that might impact medication-taking behavior

Health Dialog offers personalized health coaching services that can address these steps, providing the opportunity to identify and close knowledge gaps, and for members to have their medication-related questions answered—outside of the office visit. Our specially trained Care Navigators can also help to demystify what can often be very complex medication directions or regimens. In addition to educational materials, Care Navigators provide connections to other resources that work best for each person to help overcome barriers to adherence.

Understanding how each individual in your population is impacted by barriers like knowledge gaps is critical to improving medication adherence results and reducing healthcare costs. With Health Dialog’s personalized approach you can help bridge the knowledge gap and improve medication adherence for your population.

In the final installment in our blog series “Top Six Barriers to Medication Adherence,” we will discuss how time management is the number one barrier to medication adherence.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Talking Points About Health Literacy.,than%20necessary%20morbidity%20and%20mortality.

Topics: Trends & Insights, Medication Adherence

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