More than 30 percent of patients with hypertension aren’t taking their prescribed medicine, according to a new study published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Medication adherence is a problem for more Americans than we realize—even those who have medical and prescription coverage. Of the approximately 187 million Americans who take one or more prescription drugs, up to one-half do not take their medications as prescribed. Patients missing out on their medication or taking the wrong dose cost the U.S. health care system $290 billion each year (New England Healthcare Institute).

Patients who adhere to their medication plans, on the other hand, can safeguard both their health and their wallets. The savings come from reduced progression of diseases, lower hospitalization and emergency room charges, and lower mortality rates.

As an employer or health plan sponsor, odds are that you have members in your population who aren’t adhering to their medication. This portion of your population may be growing larger as both pharmaceutical and out-of-pocket costs rise. You can bet that non-adherence is costing you. Despite this, medication adherence programs are one of the least included components of wellness programs, offered by only 16% of wellness programs, according to HealthMine’s 2016 Consumer Wellness Report.

Medication adherence is an opportunity for wellness programs, who can fill the gap between provider visits and patient home care with improved care coordination. This includes monitoring, reminding and financially incenting medication adherence. Enhancing engagement and education about treatments increases the likelihood that members will take their medications as prescribed. Wellness programs can also utilize technology—including e-prescribing and sharing of near-real time prescription data between patients, providers and pharmacists—to improve adherence in their populations.

[Photo credit: Dvortygirl on Flickr via Creative Commons.]