Effective health care provider and patient communication critical for improved patient medication adherence

ORLANDO, Fla. - A new study released today at The American Heart Associaton Scientific Sessions 2011 reveals that patients who got free medications were more likely to take their medicine as prescribed, resulting in lower rates of rehospitalization for heart attacks and heart failure. The Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association reports that the cost of medications is not the only barrier to medication adherence. 

According to the American Heart Association, in this Post-Myocardial Infarction Free Rx Event and Economic Evaluation (MI FREEE) Trial of 5,855 heart attack patients, 2,845 paid nothing for their cholesterol-lowering and other medications shown to improve patient outcomes after a heart attack. Those patients were 4 percent to 6 percent more likely to take them than the 3,010 who had co-pays.

After a heart attack, patients are typically sent home with these cholesterol-lowering or other medications to prevent further heart issues. However, a major problem, and the basis of this study, is that patients often do not take these medications as prescribed. Although this study proves that eliminating the cost of medications makes an impact, medication adherence is a much larger issue for health care providers, especially nurses and advanced practice nurses that advise patients.

"Adherence was low even with the advantage of not paying co-pays, providing a major challenge for nursing to research ways to improve adherence long term," states Kathy Berra, MSN, ANP, FAHA, FPCNA, FAAN, Stanford Prevention Research Center and PCNA Board of Directors.

Nurses, who according to a recent membership survey from PCNA, typically spend 45 minutes on initial patient visits and 20 minutes on follow-up visits, are critical for influencing patients' behavior and addressing adherence issues. However, clear communication and awareness of low health literacy is important to ensuring that patients understand behavior change and the importance of medication adherence.

"We need to continue working hard on a patient centered dialogue-in clear and plain language-in which we effectively communicate the importance of medication adherence, provide practical tips and listen to and address patient concerns questions and challenges," says Berra.