Man looking at his prescription labels

Improving Medication Adherence Through Behavioral Health Support

Not taking medication as prescribed can lead to dire consequences. According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, it leads to 10% of total hospital admissions and 22% of nursing home admissions. It’s also associated with 125,000 deaths and results in $100 billion a year in unnecessary hospital charges and costs the U.S. economy $300 billion a year.

So, what causes people to not follow doctor’s orders? Patients receiving medications often grapple with one or more of the following issues:

  • They might not like the idea that they need to take medication at all, perhaps because they’re not sure they actually need it or they simply don’t like taking medication.
  • They might find that the medication is a cost burden that creates additional stress for them.
  • The medication may not seem to be working.
  • The medication may present undesirable side effects. If they take multiple medications, they may experience unintended interaction effects.
  • They might be experiencing other life issues that get in the way of them taking their medication.

Any of these issues — or a combination — can result in medications not being used as prescribed. Noncompliance is, in essence, a behavioral issue, and behavioral health specialists are uniquely skilled in working with such issues.

About behavioral health specialists
Behavioral health specialists include licensed clinical psychologists, licensed master clinical social workers and limited licensed clinical psychologists, among other provider types. A session with a behavioral health specialist usually lasts 45 minutes to an hour, and sessions are generally conducted weekly. This gives specialists ample time to explore possible problems and allows them to provide frequent updates on the patient’s progress to his or her medical doctor.

Are you or a loved one struggling to take medications as prescribed?

Talk to your doctor about whether seeing a behavioral health specialist makes sense as part of your care plan. These professionals are skilled at addressing sensitive issues with necessary care and assisting patients in coming to terms with the many factors that could be behind your behavior.

Behavioral specialists can help patients resolve conflicts and establish more effective behavioral patterns. Adding a behavioral specialist to your care team can help you overcome medication adherence issues you’re struggling with – getting your prescriptions right and taking them according to the way they’re prescribed can drastically improve the way you feel and help you take steps toward other healthy changes you’re looking to make.

About the author: Kenneth L. Salzman is a licensed psychologist in independent private practice in Lansing. He’s been practicing for 46 years and currently serves on the Insurance Committee of the Michigan Psychological Association. He’s also worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on the “Integrating Behavioral Health into General Medical Care” initiative, part of the Physician Group Incentive Program.

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Photo credit: DNY59

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