The National Institutes of Health estimates that one-in-three patients never fill their prescriptions across categories. Not only do patients experience worse health outcomes when they fail to take their medications as prescribed, but poor medication adherence also negatively impacts the entire healthcare ecosystem.

To overcome adherence obstacles and help patients successfully initiate and continue therapies, support needs to begin the moment a prescription is written and continue throughout the patient journey. It’s also vital to find out what specific kinds of support patients need and deliver it when they’re most receptive. That obligation makes the point of care the ideal setting for understanding the possible reasons patients may be reluctant to start or stay on a treatment and providing them with the tailored support they need to address their challenges head-on.

Engage patients the moment a script is written

While much of the focus tends to be on what comes before a patient begins treatment — including looking for ways to get patients to the doctor, increase diagnosis rates and drive prescriptions — there tends to be less focus on what happens next.

It’s also vital to support medication adherence the moment a script is written to help avoid any potential delays with the treatment plan, says Alicia Cowley, M.D., MBA, director, clinical content at Phreesia.

“The moment a certain therapy is prescribed, any barriers or delays in the patient starting that treatment is essentially just time in which their underlying condition is not being treated,” Cowley explains. “This means their condition can get worse and impact their health outcomes in other ways, resulting in potential escalations such as urgent care, emergency room visits or even hospitalization.”

Understand barriers to adherence

It’s crucial to ask patients about the real-world barriers they may face that might thwart their ability to adhere to their prescribed medications. For instance, financial constraints often make filling and refilling prescriptions more difficult, and logistical issues such as lack of transportation or childcare also can keep patients from getting to a pharmacy or specialized clinic to receive the care they need.

In addition, patients may harbor concerns that keep them from taking certain therapies. Hesitancy around a medication’s method of administration — such as a fear of needles — is common, and in many cases avoidable, if those concerns are expressed upfront. Patients also may worry about a medication’s potential side effects or about becoming dependent on it. Every patient has their own personal barriers to adherence, so it’s important to discover and immediately address those barriers at the point of care to avoid treatment delays and interruptions.

Provide tailored support

Offering patients support for their unique challenges, including information on condition-specific patient-support programs (PSPs), treatment reminder programs or copay assistance, can have a big impact on improving their medication adherence. However, patients are often unaware that such support exists: Phreesia survey data found that three-in-five patients have little to no knowledge of PSPs. Reaching patients at the point of care with relevant support and medication-adherence content is key to making sure they don’t miss out on all of the types of assistance available to them, Cowley says.

“It can be hard to discern how patients find out about support offerings such as PSPs,” she says. “Is it something that the person who is prescribing the medication tells them about? Is the onus on the patient to figure it out on their own or will the pharmacy let them know? Ideally, there are multiple layers of support, but I think reaching them at the point of care with tailored, one-to-one resources can help bridge that gap, in the off chance that the prescriber, medical practice or pharmacy doesn’t bring it up.”

Educational content and support resources that are personalized to each patient’s unique needs can help ensure successful patient starts and meet adherence challenges head-on.