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Conquering the adherence mountain

Pharmacist Kristen has a BS in Pharmacy from the University of Saskatchewan. Her experience as a clinical pharmacist, spin instructor, and meditation teacher make her a well-rounded health and wellness expert. As Catalyst's Director of Clinical Outcomes, she leads patient engagement initiatives and works with community pharmacists to get meaningful results. For a patient or a population, improving health outcomes is her jam!


As a pharmacist, adherence is one of our hardest mountains to climb. With countless barriers to overcome, maintaining a high adherence for patients is often more a struggle than a success. Blister packs, pouches, and other reminder applications are just a few of the methods we employ as professional to ensure our patients adhere to the doses of their prescribed medications.

What Contributes to Poor Adherence?

The World Health Organization defines adherent patients as those who take 80% of their medications prescribed for a period of time.1 There are many factors that contribute to poor adherence, including multiple medications within a treatment regimen, increased frequency of medication intake, a prolonged course of drug therapy, and the cost of the medication itself.1 Poor adherence has significant implications to patient safety as nearly 69% of medication-related hospitalizations are attributed to non-adherence, and to the Canadian health care system generally, causing an estimated $7-$9 billion in related medical expenses each year.2 Even in the United States, the estimated annual cost of drug-related morbidity and mortality resulting from nonoptimized medication therapy was $528.4 billion in 2016 alone. 3

Let's Conquer that Adherence Mountain!

As the mean age of our population continues to climb, the importance of adherence becomes paramount in maximizing clinical outcomes while minimizing healthcare costs. Leaders in the pharmaceutical industry such as Catalyst have recognized this and have created innovative technologies to better manage this growing concern. With the launch of our integrated in-home medication dispenser, spencer, we have seen an average patients adherence of 97%, a number unheard of during my tenure in college. Not only do we capture adherence in real time, but it means that we're able to adjust medication therapies to promote the best immediate possible adherence for the maximum patient benefit.

When introducing digital health tools that give us deeper patient insights, it's important to dedicate the time to provide counselling and adequate follow up. Whether a patient is struggling with a side effect from one of their medications or experiencing a change in one of their medical conditions is not knowledge accessible to the typical pharmacist. Today, however, we have the ability to display personalized and condition-specific questions to meet the individual goals of the individual patient. As these questions are monitored and analyzed, it gives pharmacists, physicians and nurses the opportunity to provide personalized clinical care to their patients.

As the demand on our pharmacies continues to rise, particularly in these unprecedented COVID-19 times, it's critical that pharmacists and medical professionals remain current and efficient. Connected solutions not only promote these objectives, but also provide a rare opportunity to garner a patient’s real-time health information, resulting in real-life health benefits. And as our technology continues to develop and the landscape of our society continues to change, particularly for medication management, I am confident that the work we're doing will retire the concept of climbing the ‘adherence mountain’.

Article References:

  1. Brown, M. T. & Bussell, J. K. Medication adherence: WHO cares? Mayo Clin. Proc.86, 304–314 (2011).
  2. How do you solve problem medication non-adherence. BC Med. J. (2015). . BC Medical Journal. Accessed June 19, 2015.
  3. Cost of Prescription Drug-Related Morbidity and Mortality – Jonathan H. Watanabe, Terry McInnis, Jan D. Hirsch, 2018.

Infographic References:

  1. How do you solve problem medication non-adherence. BC Med. J. (2015). BC Medical Journal. Accessed June 19, 2015.
  2. Cost of Prescription Drug-Related Morbidity and Mortality – J H. Watanabe, T McInnis, J D. Hirsch, 2018.
  3. McCarthy R, “The price you pay for the drug not taken.” Bus Health. 1998;16:27-28,30,32-33.
  4. How do you solve problem medication non-adherence. BC Med. J. (2015). BC Medical Journal. Accessed June 19, 2015.
  5. Brown, M. T. & Bussell, J. K. Medication adherence: WHO cares? Mayo Clin. Proc. 86, 304–314 (2011)
  6. Osterberg L, Blaschke T, “Adherence to Medication,” New Engl. J. Med., 2005;353(5):487-497.
  7. True adherence. The right meds at the right time to get the right results. Real-time capture of medications that are taken or skipped, along with patient reported outcome and vitals data, allow for the timely analysis and adjustments that lead to the best possible health outcomes.


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