Reducing medication underuse

By Sharon Henry

John Billimek speaks at SURF-IoT seminar

Irvine, August 13, 2015 — Medication underuse – the failure of patients to take medication as prescribed – is common, affecting more than 50 percent of patients with chronic disease, and is an important contributor to poor health outcomes,” John Billimek told the SURF-IoT Fellows and guests at this week’s SURF-IoT luncheon seminar. 

Billimek is a psychologist and health services researcher at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and the lead statistical resource for UCI’s Health Policy Research Institute. His research examines why racial and ethnic disparities in chronic disease outcomes persist even when healthcare processes and access to care appear to be improving. 

Reasons for medication underuse among the chronically ill include cost of prescription medication, side effects and forgetting to take the medication.

Billimek said research indicates that medication underuse is reduced when doctors and patients communicate about problems with medication regimes. These conversations, however, rarely take place.

“Efforts to improve patient-provider communication about barriers may reduce underuse and improve outcomes for disadvantaged patients,” he said.

Billimek is a mentor to Surf IoT Fellow Thomas Wurzer. Wurzer is developing an app designed to monitor patients’ symptoms as they begin taking new medications.

As technology and medicine evolve, “Mobile technology and ‘patient participation training’ programs may be keys to reducing medication underuse by bringing the complex personal challenges from a patient’s daily life into the brief and busy doctor’s appointment,” Billimek said.

The next SURF-IoT seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 11:45 a.m. in the Calit2 Building, room 3008. Dr. William Karnes will talk about why colonoscopy quality matters.