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Preventing Readmissions Through Improved Medication Management

Preventive medicine experts offer tips on achieving better adherence

Case managers know that medication-related problems often send patients back to the hospital after discharge. Maybe the patient didn’t have the money to fill the needed prescription, or the patient didn’t follow the doctor’s instructions because he or she didn’t understand them. Whatever the reason, if hospitals are looking to prevent readmissions, proper medication use is a topic they need to focus on, according to an article posted on the Case Management Insider website.

Poor medication adherence is a common problem, according to the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM). An estimated 20% to 50% of patients don’t take their medications as prescribed for a variety of reasons, including low health literacy, cost, lack of understanding why they need the medication, and inadequate follow-up.

The American Heart Association says that poor medication adherence may claim as many as 125,000 American lives each year and costs the health care system some $300 billion in return visits to emergency rooms and doctors due to medication-related problems.

But there are ways to make it more likely that patients will take their medications as their doctors prescribe. The ACPM has offered some simple strategies that may help.

The first step is to ensure that patients understand why they need to take a medication and how it will benefit them. Hospitals should ensure that patients can afford their medications and understand how to use them. The ACPM says that using the acronym SIMPLE can help providers achieve better adherence:

  • Simplify the regimen. Make it as easy as possible for patients to take the medications they need.
  • Impart knowledge. Give patients the information they need in order to know how to take a medication and to realize why it should be taken.
  • Modify patient beliefs and human behavior. Help patients take control of their conditions.
  • Provide communication and trust. Patients don’t work well with providers they don’t trust. Take the time to build a relationship.
  • Leave the bias. Understanding a patient’s socioeconomic status and cultural beliefs can help remove barriers to adherence.
  • Evaluate adherence. Follow up with patients to ensure compliance.

In addition to following these recommendations, providers can help patients by connecting them with resources. The FDA has a number of tools on its website that can help patients learn how to ask the right questions about medication use. A form offers a list of questions patients can ask their pharmacists. The FDA also has a guide to help patients avoid medication mistakes.

By helping to ensure that patients understand their medications, that they can afford them, and that they know the importance of taking them properly, case managers can help head off potential problems and can help keep patients from experiencing related health problems that might land them back in the hospital after discharge.

Sources: HealthLeaders Media; July 28, 2015; and Case Management Insider; July 21, 2015.

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