Poor adherence to medication regimens accounts for substantial worsening of disease, death, and increased health care costs. Of all medication-related hospital admissions in the United States, 33 to 69 percent are due to poor medication adherence, with a resultant cost of approximately $100 billion a year.1 Fortunately, research has found that early and frequent follow-up has a positive impact in helping patients take their medications as prescribed.2

Before writing a prescription, ask your patients about all of the medications they are taking. This includes medicine prescribed by other providers, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Explain that you need this information to make sure there are no unintended interactions.

When prescribing medication for your patients, it is essential to clearly communicate the importance of taking the medication as directed.


Here are a few ways you can help improve patient medication adherence –

  • Give your patients clear and simple verbal instructions on how, when and why to take their medications (including OTC)
  • In simple terms, describe what each medication is and what it will do to help treat their condition
  • Provide these instructions in a clearly written format patients can use as a reference
  • Encourage patients to use a Daily Medicine Schedule and Master List of Medications that help with medication reminders
  • Describe any drug interactions or side effects
  • Answer their questions about new and existing medications
  • Make sure the prescriptions are legible or use e-prescriptions to send them directly to the patient’s pharmacy
  • Write the indication for use on the prescription so the dispensing pharmacist can reinforce the importance of taking the medication


Resources for Pharmacists

The Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative (WPQC) has developed a new pocketbook toolkit Adherence Guide. This guide provides key tips and solutions for addressing five common barriers to adherence –

  • Knowledge
  • Recall
  • Motivation
  • Financial
  • System

A My Medication Plan tear-off is also available and can be used with individuals when reviewing the medications in the pharmacy.

For ordering information, please visit http://www.pswi.org.


1Osterberg L., Blaschke T. Adherence to medication. (2005) New England Journal of Medicine, 353, 487-497

2Coldham EL, Addington J, Addington D. Medication adherence of individuals with a first episode of psychosis. (2002) Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 106, 286 – 290.