Wellness Works!

Can Wellness Coaches Impact Medication Adherence?

One of the most identifiable gaps in care is medication adherence. This is an area where Wellness Coaches/ Disease Management Specialists, hired by employers, have the potential to impact the employer’s population to change behaviors.

Because most physician office visits today are limited to fifteen-twenty minute appointment slots, there is just not enough time for each patient. Unfortunately, the physicians don’t take the time to explain each prescribed medication and the potential side effects. Most patients can’t even tell you what condition each medication they are taking is for.

This is where the role of the Wellness Coach/Disease Management Specialist becomes extremely valuable. They have the time to do the patient education that is lacking in the physician’s office.

There are basically three reasons why people are non-compliant with their medications:

• They forget
• Side Effects
• Financial


Forgetting: this is very common. People are always in a hurry. Sometimes when they travel and are out of the home environment they feel they don’t need their medications. The Coach will encourage their participants to prefill pill containers, keep medications in the same visible area in the home, and most importantly, create a daily routine that encourages compliance.

Side Effects: People stop taking medications because they don’t like the side effects. They don’t realize that for many diagnoses, there is more than one medication. They are reluctant to contact their physicians because they don’t want to “bother” them and physicians are “very busy”. The Coach will educate on the various medications and potential side effects and encourage their participants to communicate with their physicians.

Financial: This can be a very sensitive area. People are reluctant to admit that they can’t afford to pay for medications. They usually don’t open up until the Coach has gained their trust and confidence. What they don’t realize is that the Coach can have resources and suggestions to help with the financial burdens of certain medications or suggest they inquire about less expensive (generic) alternatives.

There are also specific strategies that can be implemented for certain diagnosis. Non-compliant diabetics should be encouraged to check their blood sugars on a scheduled basis and keep a log to bring to their next physician appointment. They can also be coached on proper eating habits as well as exercise as a way to manage the disease. There are also formal Disease Management Programs that can be sponsored by employers that include the machine and testing strips that monitor compliance on a real time basis. The machine transmits back to a call center that is staffed by Registered Nurses. The participant is called if their blood sugars fall outside the normal range, or if they fail to test.

Participants with hypertension should be encouraged to take their blood pressures on a regularly scheduled basis and log in the date, time and blood pressure. This log should be shared with their physician so that medication can be adjusted, as needed. Some employers actually keep a machine on site, possibly in a lounge or break room for the convenience (and encouragement) of the employees. If not, one can be purchased for the home, or any fire station will do a blood pressure check. There are also machines in many pharmacies and large retail stores.

Cholesterol can not only be managed by medication, but also eating habits and lifestyle changes. Moderation is key. Strategies can be developed between the participant and their Coach.

By doing targeted outreach to non-compliant participants, medication compliance can be improved. By using Wellness Coaches/ Disease Management Specialists with a medical background, a non-judgmental relationship can be formed, for the health and well-being of the employee.