Background: In the United States, more than 25 million people have diabetes. Medication adherence is known to be important for disease control. However, factors that consistently predict medication adherence are unclear and the literature lacks patient perspectives on how health care systems affect adherence to oral hypoglycemic agents (OHAs). This study explored facilitators and barriers to OHA adherence by obtaining the perspectives of Veterans Affairs (VA) patients with OHA prescriptions.
Methods: A total of 45 patients participated in 12 focus groups that explored a wide range of issues that might affect medication adherence. Participants were patients at clinics in Seattle, Washington; San Antonio, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Salem, Oregon, and Warrenton, Oregon.
Results: Key system-level facilitators of OHA adherence included good overall pharmacy service and several specific mechanisms for ordering and delivering medications (automated phone refill service, Web-based prescription ordering), as well as providing pillboxes and printed lists of current medications to patients. Barriers mirrored many of the facilitators. Poor pharmacy service quality and difficulty coordinating multiple prescriptions emerged as key barriers.
Conclusions: VA patient focus groups provided insights on how care delivery systems can encourage diabetes medication adherence by minimizing the barriers and enhancing the facilitators at both the patient and system levels. Major system-level factors that facilitated adherence were overall pharmacy service quality, availability of multiple systems for reordering medications, having a person to call when questions arose, counseling about the importance of adherence and providing tools such as pillboxes and updated medication lists.