Carter Lee|7/11/2023|3 min read

Leveraging Virtual Care to Improve Medication Adherence

How telehealth can combat medication nonadherence to foster better patient outcomes

Man taking medication

Clinicians play a pivotal role in guiding patients on their path to wellness. Amidst the different challenges of modern healthcare, one area that constantly demands attention is medication adherence. The importance of patients following their prescribed medication regimens cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts treatment outcomes, patient satisfaction and overall healthcare effectiveness and efficiency.

Medication nonadherence is a significant issue within the healthcare industry, costing the United States up to $289 billion annually and contributing to 10% of hospitalizations. On an individual level, when patients don’t take their medication as prescribed, it can lead to higher risk of severe relapses, antibiotic resistance and poor health outcomes. 

There are three common types of nonadherence a clinician should be aware of:

  • Primary nonadherence occurs when the provider writes the prescription, but the patient never fills it.

  • Non persistence is when the patient starts the medication but stops taking it before the recommended date, without consulting a medical professional.

  • Non conforming happens when the prescription is not taken as advised. This could include skipping dosages, taking incorrect dosages, taking medication at incorrect times or even taking too much at a time.

The different types of nonadherence are often caused by a variety of factors and unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all medication adherence solution. However, clinicians can utilize telehealth technologies to create individualized, targeted interventions to create tailored patient adherence solutions. 

What influences medication nonadherence?

It's key to understand what factors influence a patient to deviate from their care plan in order to create strategies for medication adherence. Some of the most common influences include poor patient-provider communication, complex medication regimen and fear of adverse effects/limited understanding of the drug and its uses. 


Poor patient-provider communication, whether its lack of communication or miscommunication, is one of the leading factors of medication nonadherence. When patients are confused or don’t understand the physician’s directions, they are more likely to miss dosages or incorrectly take medications. And multiple studies have discovered that up to 60% of patients could not recall or misunderstood their physicians’ instructions 10-80 minutes after they were given directions regarding the prescribed medication. 

How telehealth can help

Telehealth technology, such as virtual consultations and medication reminders, can significantly improve the frequency of provider-patient communication. Utilizing virtual visits allows patients to communicate with their provider instantaneously and more frequently, which is particularly helpful if medication questions arise after the initial consultation. 

Additionally, clinicians can incorporate medication reminders into telehealth applications that send automated alerts to patients when they need to take their medications - reducing the likelihood of patients forgetting to take their medication at the correct time. 

Although telehealth technologies are a fast track to improve communication, at its core, effective communication relies on accountability from both parties. Therefore, creating a space where patients feel safe expressing confusion or asking questions regarding prescriptions is essential. Informing patients of the key information (the what, why, when, how and how long) through multiple channels also decreases medication misunderstandings. 

Complex medication regimens

Complex medication regimens - such as the administration of numerous medications at frequent or unusual times of the day, are another major contributor to medication nonadherence. Patients' lives shouldn’t have to revolve around taking their medication, however, this can quickly become the case -  causing the omission of doses or the medication altogether. 

How telehealth can help

Medication management tools and remote patient monitoring can help simplify the lives of patients with complex medication regimens. Telehealth platforms frequently have medication management tools that allow patients and providers to organize and track medications. Tools often include reminders for each medication, the ability to set up custom schedules and generate alerts for refills. 

One of these helpful tools to promote medication adherence is remote patient monitoring (RPM). Remote monitoring such as electronic pill dispensers can record when the patient takes their medication and transmits this information directly to healthcare providers. This allows clinicians to identify deviations in real time and intervene if necessary. And since the data is directly sent to the clinician, RPM pill dispensers add an extra sense of accountability for the patient.

However, it's important to note that, whenever possible, using the most simplified regimen based on patients’ characteristics is one of the best routes to improve medication adherence. As well as involving the patient in decision making so they have a sense of ownership in their treatment plan.

Other influences

There are a myriad of other influences that cause patients to stop complying with prescriptions, such as fear of adverse effects or lack of unpleasant symptoms. Both of these factors likely stem from minimal knowledge about the medication and what it is treating. When a patient doesn’t understand how a drug works, what side effects to expect or why they are taking it, they are more likely to deviate from their care plan.

How telehealth can help

Telehealth platforms can provide educational resources, instructional videos and interactive tools to help patients better understand their medical conditions, potential side effects and treatment regimens. Access to comprehensive information empowers patients to actively participate in their healthcare decisions and fosters a better understanding of the importance of medical adherence and reduces any fear of the unknown.

Powering medication adherence solutions

Clinicians can play an important role in reducing medication nonadherence by adopting telehealth solutions. Speaking of telehealth solutions, meet OpenLoop!! We thoughtfully pair our network of clinicians with innovative healthcare organizations providing virtual and in-person care in all 50 states. 

Our easy-to-use, HIPAA compliant technology was designed with clinicians top-of-mind for seamless scheduling, patient visits and note charting. With 6,000+ providers already in our clinician network, you can tap into the OpenLoop advantage too with:

  • Nationwide connections

  • Licensing as a Service

  • Sync & async options

  • Flexible scheduling

  • Competitive pay

  • Dedicated provider support

Interested in expanding your reach as a provider? Apply to our clinician network!