The Importance of Patient Education and Prescription Drug Abuse

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Patient with handful of pills

Care providers estimate that one-third to one-half of all patients misuse prescription medications.

Collaboration among doctors, nurses, and patients is critical for improving prescription treatment adherence. Duly, nurses teach medication adherence to patients to encourage the proper use of prescription drugs. Intentional nonadherence occurs when patients choose not to follow their recommended treatment plans. However, not all prescription misuse is intentional. Unintentional nonadherence occurs when patients wish to conform to their treatment plans but face barriers that they not control. In either case, nurses intervene to encourage adherence.

An Oman Medical Journal article highlights several practices that nurses use for educating patients about prescription drug adherence.

Promoting Adherence When Issuing Prescriptions

When issuing prescriptions, care providers and nurses include the patient in the decision-making process. [2] A collaborative approach to this stage of treatment may increase patient cooperation. By including patients in the decision-making process, care providers give them a sense of ownership that makes them feel more invested in their own recovery. Additionally, care providers further promote prescription compliance by developing the simplest drug regimen possible.

When communicating with patients, it’s important that care providers explain important details about the prescribed medications while they are dispensing them. This is the time to review key details about treatment plans, such as the type of drug being prescribed, why the drug was prescribed, when the patient takes the drug, how the patient should take the drug, and how long the patient should take the drug. It’s also important to advise patients about side effects that a particular prescription might cause. Patients who are unaware of common side effects may fail to conform to treatment plans if undesirable symptoms occur while they are taking prescription medication.

Reminders Improve Adherence

The top reason for nonadherence is forgetfulness. In fact, nearly half of all patients forget to take their medications at some point. Nurses use several common tools to help patients remember their treatment regimens, such as postal mail, email, text messages, and voice messages. Patients who collaborate with medical professionals to figure out ways to conform to prescription treatments are more likely to complete their drug regimens successfully.

Care providers use visual aids to help patients understand their role in treatment, such as calendars or schedules, that designate the times and intervals that patients need to take their prescriptions. Drug cards, medical charts, datasheets, and packaging also provide information as to how patients take their medications.

Promoting Adherence During Checkups

To promote prescription compliance, care providers and nurses also provide emotional support to patients. Medical professionals achieve this by collaborating with patients on how to incorporate prescription regimens into their daily routines. This is especially important for patients with complex prescription regimens, senior patients, and other patients who may face adherence barriers that they cannot control.

Nurses schedule follow-up visits to evaluate how patients are progressing in their prescription-based treatments. For ongoing treatment, it’s important that nurses schedule the appropriate follow-up visits before patients leave the office.

During each visit, care providers assess patient drug adherence. Nurses and doctors use various methods to evaluate adherence that relates to the characteristics of the patients and their prescribed drugs. Additionally, medical professionals, such as nurses, doctors, and pharmacists, evaluate how effective visual aids are in helping patients comply with their treatment plans.

Patients also fail to comply with prescribed treatment plans because of apprehension or perceptions about certain drugs. To identify viable interventions, care providers and nurses first discover the root cause of patient nonadherence and then work to overcome them.

Overcoming Adherence Barriers

To assist patients with adherence, nurses and physicians identify any barriers that may cause patients difficulty in complying with their treatment plans. If a barrier exists, the nurse or doctor assists the patient in overcoming the obstacle. After identifying a solution, medical professionals make sure that patients clearly understand how to resolve compliance barriers.

Convincing a patient to comply with treatment is not about encouraging him or her to take more medicine. It’s about increasing the effectiveness of interventions that prove more impactful for population health compared with any single prescription treatment. Duly, health care organizations provide nurses and doctors with access to training about promoting prescription adherence. Such tools empower medical professionals to promote positive health outcomes for populations that need medical services the most.

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Recommended Readings

Ohio University Blog, “8 TED Talks for Nurse Practitioners”
Ohio University Blog, “6 Advantages of Becoming a Nurse Practitioner”


Journal of Malta College of Pharmacy Practice, “Medication Adherence: Patient Education, Communication and Behaviour” (PDF)
National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Patient Medication Adherence: Measures in Daily Practice”