1. Tip #1 Make sure patients understand "how" and "why" patient adherence packaging can help make taking medications easier for them
In spite of all the advances being made in patient adherence packaging, many patients are still not using the packaging correctly. Many patients do not understand the purpose of compliance packaging. Perhaps this could be one of the reasons that they are removing all the medications at once.
Health professionals need to know how to counsel patients when the initial compliance package is dispensed. Patients will be more inclined to use the patient adherence packaging if they understand how the compliance packaging can help them remember to take a medication at the right time and check if they have already taken a dose. This is a major advantage over medications dispensed in a standard prescription vial.
2. Tip #2 Make it easy for patients to understand how to take the "first" dose
If you can step back and try to pretend you are a patient using a compliance package for the first time, it might be easier to understand why so many people are having problems.
How would you know how to open the compliance package and remove the dose if you could not understand the instructions on the package? I believe this is a critical problem many patients are currently facing. Instructions must be written in language people can understand. In addition, these instructions need to be available in one place on the package, preferably with the first dose. Sometimes the instructions on how to use the package are separated on both the front and back of the package so the patient has to try to "piece the information together".
Sometimes dosage instructions are included at the bottom of the panel because that is where there is available blank space. This may look good from a design layout but it makes it very difficult for patients to understand. When information is split and not near the doses being discussed, it actually can cause confusion and lead to patient non adherence - exactly the opposite goal of patient adherence packaging.
Make it easy for the patient to understand how to take the first dose and keep all the patient information in one place, preferably with the appropriate doses to aid patient comprehension.
3. Tip #3 Use white space so that it maximally impacts patient comprehension.
White space is at a premium due to FDA required information but it can be every effective if used optimally for patient instructions. Follow patient education guidelines to make sure the message will be understood by patients but also use design techniques that lead the patient through the package and its message so it is maximally effective. In some instances, illustrations may be more effective than the words.
4. Tip #4 Provide patient instructions for use in a logical order
When patient instructions are separated and not in a logical order of use, patient comprehension falls and patient adherence will fall. It is essential that the information provided on how to use the adherence packaging and the medication are clear and in a logical order of use.The package will be even more successful when the ideas are organized in the order that your audience will use them.
For instance, if a dose is titrated or requires special dosage information, place this information next to the specific dose. This will increase patient adherence. Do not place specific dosage information in any area that is blank, just because there happens to be space available. This is currently happening with several patient adherence packages and is confusing patients. Instructions are easier to follow if they are near the dose being discussed and the instructions include logical steps or timing sequence.
5. Tip #5 Make sure the instructions are a Grade 6 reading level
Several healthcare agencies have recommended patient education materials not be higher than a sixth grade level when communicating with the general US population. There are many methods of testing the readability of your patient information including the Flesch/Flesch-Kincaid readability test available in some word processing programs.Make sure patients do not give up because they cannot understand the instructions. All the patient instructions must be clear, understandable and reinforced with appropriate design.