(StatePoint) You know how important regular check-ups are and that consulting your healthcare provider when you have a concern is smart. But what happens after the visit is just as essential to maintaining good health.
Unfortunately, some people don’t follow their provider’s advice. Maybe they don’t take their prescriptions as written or forego recommended preventive screenings and immunizations. This can be costly, both for individuals and the health care system. Case in point: More than 125,000 people die each year because of prescription medication non-adherence, according to the National Council for Patient Information and Education.
Following a doctor’s recommended care plan can be challenging, according to Dr. J.B. Sobel, chief medical officer with Cigna Healthcare’s Medicare business. There are multiple reasons why older patients can have difficulty following their provider’s instructions – including managing multiple medications at different times of day – or trouble accessing or affording care.
Thankfully, there are some processes and resources that can help you faithfully follow your healthcare provider’s advice.
Get organized. More than half of adults 65 and older take four or more prescription drugs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. With more medications, it can be difficult to know what to take, when to take it, and in what dosage. A low-cost pill organizer, available at drug stores and retail outlets, can help you stay organized. You may also want to automate your medication by taking it at the same time every day if directions allow that. The key is to find a system that works for you and stick with it.
Communicate with your provider or pharmacist. If your medication doesn’t seem to be working or is causing undesirable side effects, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about adjusting your dosage or switching to an alternative. Likewise, discuss any concerns about screenings or tests with your provider.
Having a good rapport with your doctor helps. Take notes at your appointment or bring a loved one with you to help with questions. And don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you don’t understand.
Connect your providers. Make sure your various doctors share information. For example, if you have an unexpected hospital visit, notify your primary care provider so they can review any new medications or diagnoses from the hospital and help you fit them into your current care plan. This can also help protect you from unnecessary or duplicate procedures.
Find alternative access to care. If you have difficulty getting around or live far from where care is rendered, there are programs to help. Your provider may offer virtual visits. You may be able to have prescriptions safely delivered to your home in a 90-day supply, perhaps at a lower cost, and with reminders for refills. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be eligible for rides to your provider or pharmacy at no extra cost. Learn more about Cigna Healthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans at www.cigna.com/medicare.
Seek help with costs. “Extra Help” is a federal program providing prescription drug cost support to those who qualify. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers help customers afford medications. You could also ask your healthcare provider about generic medications, which typically cost less but are equally effective.
Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans pay for many preventive procedures with no extra cost to you.
“If keeping up with your health care feels overwhelming, please don’t get discouraged,” said Dr. Sobel, who oversees a team of clinicians that contact Cigna Healthcare’s Medicare Advantage customers whose prescriptions have lapsed or not been refilled. “Seek help from a doctor, a pharmacy or a loved one. They want to help you. Keep in mind that it’s easier to maintain good health than it is to recapture your health following a preventable crisis.”
The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.