National Consumers League

So Simple, So Hard tackles adherence challenges in CA

“So Simple, So Hard” was the theme of the medication adherence conference the National Consumers League (NCL) held on September 15 in Sacramento, California. Sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the speakers and attendees explored the challenges and barriers to medication adherence – why it is so hard – and highlighted the tools and strategies to make it simpler and to improve adherence and health outcomes, especially among underserved populations.

NCL gathered more than 80 stakeholders in Sacramento, including health care professionals, community health workers, advocates, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers. Throughout the day, conference participants heard from researchers and experts on adherence, and engaged with each other about possible collaborations and solutions.

The meeting kicked off with presentations on adherence research and health disparities, and continued with a variety of strategies and tools to improve adherence that could be utilized in health care practices or organizations. Takeaways from the presentations included the following:

  • One size does not fit all – adherence intervention work best when tailored for the patient
  • Quality of communication and a sense of collaboration between patients and health care professionals impact adherence, especially among people of color   
  • Adherence rates are unique to each medication a patient takes 
  • Cultural considerations are vital to understanding barriers to adherence
  • Always consider the health literacy of the patient
  • Determining the reasons for poor adherence is essential to developing effective interventions   

Specific strategies and solutions:

  • Medication synchronization
  • Comprehensive medication review
  • Tools for translating medication labels into the patient’s native language
  • Best practices and tools for more culturally competent clinical care

The conference provided a forum for participants to interact, connect, and lay the groundwork to develop partnerships for collaborative initiatives. We will be following up with all conference participants to determine the benefits of the conference and learn of any connections and /or collaborations developed.  

At NCL, we view poor adherence, with its devastating effect on health outcomes, as a public health problem. Since 2011, we have been leading Script Your Future – a public education campaign to increase awareness among patients, their family caregivers, and health care professionals of the importance of taking medication as directed.

As leaders of Script Your Future, NCL convened an AHRQ research dissemination conference to further explore possible solutions to this public health problem. The adherence issue is complex and taking medications is NOT so simple, especially for ethnic and racial minorities who often face health disparities. Collaboration among stakeholders who are dedicated to keeping the patient at the center of the discussion, is a critical first step toward developing and implementing effective medication adherence strategies to help people better self-manage their care.  

Conference participants and others are encouraged to distribute information from the conference to interested colleagues and through their networks. We look forward to hearing how others are sharing the information, tools, and resources from the conference, and the possible collaborations that will grow out of the meeting.   

* Funding for this conference was made possible in part by grant number 1R13HS023948-01A1 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government