Side Effects: A Top Barrier to Medication Adherence

This is the third installment of our “Top Six Barriers to Medication Adherence” blog series. Read our introductory blog post and the article on cost and financial concerns as a barrier to adherence.

Experiencing negative side effects, or even the fear of perceived side effects, may lead to medication nonadherence. In a poll we conducted on Twitter, Health Dialog asked consumers which negative side effects would make them stop taking their medications as prescribed.* The responses were:

  • 38% weight gain
  • 34% nausea/upset stomach
  • 19% dizziness/fatigue
  • 9% skin irritation

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the most optimal time to discuss side effects with patients is when they fill a prescription for the first time. This can help alleviate the immediate concerns about potential side effects, set expectations for what the patient could experience and empower them to make effective decision about taking a new medication. A “first fill” coaching call can positively impact the patient’s medication-taking behavior and create buy-in from the beginning—before bad habits are formed—by educating him or her on the benefits of taking prescriptions as prescribed and minimizing any fears about side effects.

Overcoming Side Effect Barriers

Health Dialog offers personalized medication adherence programs, including first-fill coaching, where specially trained Care Navigators identify barriers to adherence, such as side effects. When coaching people on how to overcome side effects, our Care Navigators educate them on the importance of taking medications as prescribed and encourage the patient to speak with their healthcare provider or pharmacist to discuss possible solutions. This may include taking a lower dose of the prescription, taking it at a different time of day, taking the medication with food or switching to an alternative medication.

Personalizing the coaching intervention to the individual’s unique clinical needs is also critical. A conversation about side effects with a person who is taking a medication to prevent the onset of a chronic condition may be quite different than a conversation with a patient taking medication for a life-threatening diagnosis. Patients who are taking life-saving medications for highly advanced chronic conditions are more likely to “deal with” side effects than those who have yet to feel any symptoms of a chronic disease.

Health Dialog’s medication adherence team is specifically trained to ask questions that uncover the concerns and fears associated with side effects and provide sound guidance on proper medication-taking regimens. By helping address a member’s specific concerns and overcome side effects, medication adherence can increase, improving the patient’s quality of life while reducing costs from potential health complications.

In the next installment in our blog series “Top Six Barriers to Medication Adherence,” we will discuss how a lack of motivation can be a barrier to medication adherence.

* Twitter poll completed November 28, 2018, with 2,722 responses

Topics: Trends & Insights, Medication Adherence

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Health Dialog's Medication Adherence solutions can help members overcome side effects and other adherence barriers.
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