Managing Medications and Medication Adherence Among US Adults During the Early Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Purpose: Before the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions it brought, medication adherence was already a challenging and complex health behavior. The purpose of this study was to describe patients' interactions in clinic, pharmacy, and home contexts and associated medication management and adherence during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients and methods: A survey questionnaire was developed using the Medication Adherence Context and Outcomes framework and distributed via social media between May and July 2020 targeting adults taking a daily prescribed medication. Survey questions assessed sociodemographics, interactions with healthcare providers, clinics, pharmacies, medication management experiences, habit strength, and life chaos perceptions during the pandemic. Medication adherence was assessed by the self-report BAASIS© scale to measure implementation, discontinuation, and overall nonadherence.
Results: A total of 134 adults from the United States, mean age 50.0 (SD 16.1) years were included in this analysis. Respondents took a median of 3.50 (interquartile range 4) daily medications. Delays in seeing a provider were reported by 47 (35.1%). Pharmacy encounters were impacted; 25 (18.7%) indicated their method for obtaining medication changed. Medication nonadherence was reported among 62 (46.3%) and was significantly greater among those who delayed prescription refills (p=0.032), pillbox users (p=0.047), and those who experienced greater life chaos (p=0.040) and lower habit strength (p<0.001) in the early phase of the pandemic.
Conclusion: Although the early phase of the pandemic affected access to care for nearly one-third of the sample, distance-accessible care options and strategies to obtain needed services without being in-person supported respondents medication management. Helpful strategies included provider accessibility, telehealth, home delivery/mail-order, drive-thru's, 90-day supplies, and online/automatic refills. Methods to develop and reestablish habits are critical. Care providers in clinic and pharmacy settings can educate and remind patients about services like distance-accessible technologies and online ordering of medications and establishing routines to support medication adherence.