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Managing Medication: Six Simple Ways Employers Can Advocate Medication Adherence To Employees

Medication adherence, also referred to as medication compliance, is starting to be taken more seriously by employers as a driver in higher healthcare costs.  

  • About 50% of Americans do not take their medications or follow treatment plans that their healthcare providers recommended. 

  • The cost of medication non-adherence is $290 billion per year in the U.S. 

  • Poor adherence can lead to complications from the illness and a lower quality of life for patients.

Medication non-adherence also costs employers more in the long run due to increased hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and provider office visits. Not to mention decreased work productivity and more missed days of work.

Collectively, this explains why employers are beginning to educate their employees on the importance of taking their medications as instructed by their healthcare provider.   Here are six actions employers can take to improve medication adherence within their workforce. 

Six Simple Ways to Improve Medication Adherence Rates 

  1. Use Data. Employers should pay attention to the pharmacy and medical claims to get a better picture of the problem. By reviewing claims data, you will see which conditions have the highest cost associated with them and if complications or hospital admissions due to not taking medication contribute to the price. Research presented in a recent white paper by Health Action Council and UnitedHealthcare demonstrated that common conditions such as asthma, diabetes, mental health/substance abuse, back disorders, and hypertension drive up healthcare costs. Advances in technology are helping gain more visibility into patients’ needs and their medication adherence history. Use these advances to help you determine which methods of action will be most effective. 

  2. Reduce Costs. Work with your Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) to manage your formulary and make sure you are not paying extra for drugs. Another way to reduce costs is by providing your employees with resources such as to help identify the healthcare options available to them and prescription discount vouchers such as the Optum Perks Prescription Discount Card. Optum Perks can save employees up to 80% on prescription medications and is available to anyone, 24/7, even if they don’t have insurance. This card is valid for use at over 64,000 pharmacies nationwide and applies to most prescription drugs. You can provide employees access through Find the Right Care.  Lastly, remind employees to talk with their providers and to see if they can offset the cost of prescriptions or prescribe a generic version. 

  3. Increase Access and Reduce Prescription Refill Barriers. Refilling prescriptions can act as a barrier in getting people to adhere to their medication. Often, this is due to things like waiting in long lines at the pharmacy or coordinating a delivery method. Counteract these barriers by helping employees reduce the number of trips they make to their pharmacy by filling multiple prescriptions at the same time or setting up a delivery option.  Some pharmacies deliver medication straight to home, eliminating the process of medication prep and the possibility of human error. Another option could be to work with your PBM to coordinate an online refill method. 

  4. Educate. Every FDA-approved medication has potential side effects. However, many of them are extremely rare. Medications would not be on the market if the benefits did not outweigh the side effects. Healthcare providers should make sure patients are aware of any side effects before administering the drug. Many people have a misconception that it is okay to stop using prescription medication as soon as their symptoms are alleviated. Sometimes, this may be the case and is perfectly fine to do. However, most of the time, when prescribed an antibiotic or similar prescription, the medication is meant to be taken until there is no more left. Suppose there are refills available for the medicine. In that case, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider and clarify whether or not to refill the prescription and continue taking it.

  5. Make it Simple. Implement tactics and systems to help remind employees to take their medication on time. Use flyers, payroll inserts, and email messages to remind people of the importance of medication adherence. Please encourage them to keep their prescriptions in places where they won’t forget about them and maintain a written or digital schedule. Another excellent strategy is to distribute pill organizers or pocket calendars to your employees with the company’s branded logo. You could even work with your pharmacy or PBM to provide high-tech pill organizers that make sound or flash when it is time to take medication. 

  6. Communicate. Provide employees with suggested questions to ask their healthcare providers if medication side effects are bothering them. Employees should be aware of their options, such as switching to a different medication or lowering their dosage. Questions employees can ask their providers include: 

    1. Is the medication necessary?

    2. Can I stop taking the medication when I start feeling better, or should I finish the bottle?

    3. Will I need to refill the prescription once I take it all?

    4. What are the side effects?

    5. Are there things I shouldn’t eat, drink, or do while taking the medication?

A Promising Future 
A combination of education, technology, and communication methods can achieve better health outcomes at lower costs. 

To learn more about medication adherence, click here to download Health Action Council’s complete insight brief!

Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees.

Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve healthcare quality and efficiency in the community. 

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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