Impact of Med Adherence on Patient Outcomes: A CPO’s Guide

As a Chief Pharmacy Officer (CPO), one of your primary responsibilities is to ensure that pharmacy services contribute positively to patient outcomes. Medication adherence is a critical aspect of this mission. In this guide, we will explore the profound impact that medication adherence has on patient outcomes and how CPOs can lead efforts to improve it. 

Understanding Medication Adherence and its Impact on Health Outcomes 

Medication adherence refers to the extent to which patients take their medications as prescribed by healthcare professionals. It is a multifaceted issue influenced by various factors, including patient knowledge, socioeconomic status, healthcare system support, and the complexity of medication regimens. Poor adherence can lead to the following negative outcomes as explained below:

  1. Disease Progression: Non-adherence can exacerbate chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. When patients don’t take their medications regularly or as prescribed, their conditions may worsen, leading to more frequent hospitalizations and complications.  
  1. Increased Healthcare Costs: Poor adherence is a significant driver of increased healthcare costs. Hospital readmissions and emergency room visits due to medication-related issues can strain healthcare systems and insurers. A systematic review of studies examining the prevalence and preventability of drug-related hospital readmissions showed that 21% of readmissions are due to medication and of these, 69% are preventable1. The average readmission cost is $15,200, translating to billions of dollars every year2
  1. Reduced Quality of Life: Patients who do not adhere to their medication regimens often experience a lower quality of life. They may struggle with symptoms that could be controlled with proper adherence, such as pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath. 
  1. Risk of Mortality: Non-adherence can lead to preventable deaths. For example, patients with heart conditions who don’t take their prescribed medications may face an increased risk of cardiac events. Staying adherent to medication therapy is associated with a 21% reduction in risk of mortality compared to those who are non-adherent3.  

The Role of CPOs 

CPOs play a pivotal role in addressing medication adherence challenges within healthcare organizations as they are responsible for: 

  1. Developing Adherence Programs: CPOs can initiate and oversee medication adherence programs that encompass patient education, counseling, and monitoring. These programs can identify patients at risk of non-adherence and provide tailored interventions.  
  1. Leveraging Technology: Embracing digital health tools, like medication management applications, medication adherence platforms, and telepharmacy services, can greatly improve adherence rates. CPOs can champion the integration of such technologies into pharmacy services provided by a health system
  1. Collaborating with Healthcare Teams: Collaboration with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers is essential to providing the best possible care for their patients and achieve better outcomes. CPOs can facilitate interprofessional communication to ensure that medication regimens are appropriate, safe, optimal, and patient centered. 
  1. Measuring and Reporting Adherence: Establishing metrics to monitor medication adherence rates is crucial. CPOs can implement tracking systems and analyze data to identify trends and areas for improvement. 
  1. Pharmacy Staff Training: Ensuring that pharmacy staff members are well-trained in patient engagement and education can enhance medication adherence. CPOs can spearhead training initiatives to improve communication with patients. 
  1. Advocating for Policy Changes: CPOs can advocate for policy changes that support adherence efforts, such as insurance coverage for adherence-enhancing technologies, remote therapeutic monitoring applications like EveryDose, and expanded scope of practice for pharmacists. 

Medication adherence is not just a patient concern; it’s a healthcare system concern, and CPOs are at the forefront of addressing it. The impact of medication adherence on patient outcomes cannot be overstated. It affects the health and well-being of patients, healthcare costs, and the overall quality of care provided by your organization. 

By taking proactive steps to develop adherence programs, leverage technology, collaborate with healthcare teams, measure and report adherence, and advocate for policy changes, CPOs can lead the way in improving medication adherence rates and ultimately enhancing patient outcomes. This commitment to medication adherence is a vital component of delivering patient-centered care and achieving better health outcomes for all. 

Are you a CPO looking for medication adherence solutions? Contact us to learn more about how we can help. 

1. El Morabet N, Uitvlugt EB, van den Bemt BJF, van den Bemt PMLA, Janssen MJA, Karapinar-Çarkit F. Prevalence and Preventability of Drug-Related Hospital Readmissions: A Systematic Review. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2018 Mar;66(3):602-608. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15244. Epub 2018 Feb 22. PMID: 29468640. 

2. Statistical Brief #278. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). July 2021. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

3. Walsh CA, Cahir C, Tecklenborg S, Byrne C, Culbertson MA, Bennett KE. The association between medication non-adherence and adverse health outcomes in ageing populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2019 Nov;85(11):2464-2478. doi: 10.1111/bcp.14075. Epub 2019 Sep 6. PMID: 31486099; PMCID: PMC6848955.