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Patients need more than a spoonful of sugar

Date: 19th October, 2012
Atlantis Healthcare
For immediate release

Patients need more than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down

Given that half of patients with long-term conditions have been found by the World Health Organisation to incorrectly take their essential medication; doctors are being encouraged to seek patient buy-in during the treatment decision making process.

Prior to the annual Medicines New Zealand Conference last week Kevin Sheehy stated in a TV3 News interview that the “non-adherence epidemic” is a serious issue, where two in five patients with chronic illnesses will stop taking their treatment after one year.

“There are major benefits in medicines preventing conditions like stroke or heart attacks and if you use your treatment properly your chances of reducing those are substantial, whereas if you don’t use your medicines - you are still at risk” said Mr Sheehy.

Non-adherence to treatment is not only a burden to patient health; it also significantly contributes to wastages in healthcare spending and resources.

Mr Sheehy explains, “Globally, it has been estimated that about 8% of the health budget could be saved if medicines were used correctly, and that is approximately the total annual budget of Pharmac, New Zealand’s drug funding agency.”

Experts in the field of health psychology have discovered proven ways to assist healthcare professionals to improve their patients’ adherence to treatment, optimise health outcomes and make lasting lifestyle changes.

According to Health Psychology Specialist, Dr Kate Perry from Atlantis Healthcare, specialists in patient adherence solutions, understanding the patient perspective is the first step towards improving adherence.

“In order to improve adherence to medication we first need to understand why patients stop taking their treatment correctly. Although some people simply forget, research shows us that in the majority of cases non-adherence is related to how patients perceive their condition and treatment,” says Dr Perry.

“For example, if a patient believes their condition will only last a short time, they will be less likely to take their treatment in the long-term. Similarly, patients living with largely asymptomatic conditions, like hypertension, may not see the need for treatment as they are not experiencing symptoms day-to-day.”

Dr Perry elaborates, “Patients may also be worried about side-effects or may have concerns about medicines being unnatural or artificial in some way, and could benefit from a better understanding of how their treatment works.”

“This highlights the importance of talking to patients about their condition and treatment; through having these conversations, doctors and other healthcare professionals can work alongside their patients to improve medication adherence” says Dr Perry.

Dr Kate Perry is a key member of Atlantis Healthcare’s world-leading health psychology team, which is headed by Professor Keith Petrie from the University of Auckland and Professor John Weinman from King’s College in London.

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