Understanding what a medication does and how to use it properly may be as important to your health as actually taking the pill.
A new study found that liver transplant patients were more likely to be hospitalized again if they did not fully understand their medication schedule or how to use their medications.
Complete understanding of a medication schedule may be difficult. Liver transplant patients, for instance, may deal with multiple medications that change over time.
"Our findings indicate that higher scores for treatment knowledge and demonstrated regimen use were independently associated with reduced post-transplant re-hospitalization," said lead study author Marina Serper, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, in a press release.
Dr. Serper and team enrolled 105 liver transplant patients from two transplant centers in the study. They interviewed these patients to gather data on patient literacy, social support and overall knowledge of their medications.
A past study cited lower education levels, inadequate social support and poor self-reported health as risk factors for improper medication use.
Dr. Serper and colleagues found that patients, for the most part, knew the purpose of 86 percent of the medications they used after their liver transplants. These patients also showed that they knew the proper schedules (doses and times) for 78 percent of their medications. However, 14 percent reported not taking their medications as directed in the four days prior to their interviews.
Based on medication levels in the patients' bodies over the same four days (prior to the interviews), 32 percent were not taking their medications properly.
Of the patients interviewed, 49 percent were re-hospitalized after their transplant. Reasons for re-hospitalization included infection and graft rejection. Graft rejection occurs when a patient's immune system attacks and causes damage to the transplanted organ.
A household income of less than $50,000, recent transplantation (within 12 months prior to the patient interview), a higher number of medications taken and limited literacy were associated with reduced treatment knowledge. Limited literacy (ability to read) was also tied to a greater risk of patients not taking medications as directed.
Dr. Serper and team also found that higher treatment knowledge and the proper use of medications were tied to a 15 percent and 13 percent reduction, respectively, in re-hospitalizations.
"It is important to understand how crucial self-care behaviors, such as following treatment plans, could lead to re-hospitalization, graft rejection, and infection if post-transplant regimens are not followed." Dr. Serper said. "By involving existing transplant center resources in cost-effective interventions that help patients properly manage their drug regimens, we could see an improvement in long term health of solid organ transplant recipients.”
This study was published Oct. 13 in Liver Transplantation.
An award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.