Results Summary

PCORI funded the Pilot Projects to explore how to conduct and use patient-centered outcomes research in ways that can better serve patients and the healthcare community. Learn more.


Older people who have more than one health problem—such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis—may take many medicines every day. People who take their medicines correctly are less likely to get sick and go to a hospital or nursing home. Healthcare providers don’t always ask or understand how well older patients take their medicines.

Project Purpose

This study looked at what patients think, feel, and do when given new prescriptions, to help improve the chances that they will take the medicine the way they should.


The research team collected information from 29 English-speaking people who were age 60 or older, had three health problems, and were taking at least five medicines. Study participants had also just gotten a prescription for a new medicine.

All participants completed an electronic diary for 30 days to record what medicines they took each day, along with their thoughts and feelings about taking the medicines.

All participants also were asked in a survey about their personal characteristics, such as age or race, their health, the medicines they took, and when they took each medicine.

A nurse interviewed 15 participants at the start and end of the 30 days. The nurse asked participants to describe their experiences with managing their health and taking their medicines.

The research team summarized the findings from the electronic diaries, surveys, and interviews. The research team discussed their findings with patient experts and healthcare professionals and asked for their views on the results.


In the surveys and electronic diaries, many participants said they didn’t take their medicine the way it was prescribed because

  • They didn’t like the side effects, such as dizziness or digestion problems.
  • They didn’t always have money or insurance coverage to pay for their prescription.
  • Their pharmacy didn’t always have the medicine they needed.
  • It was hard for them to get to the pharmacy.
  • They didn’t know how to take the medicine properly.
  • They worried whether the medicine was right for them.
  • They worried that a new medicine would cause problems with other medicines they were already taking.
  • They forgot to take the new medicine because they were already taking so many others.

In the interviews, participants spoke about how their illnesses had changed their lives, including how they saw themselves and their relationships with other people. Participants wanted more time with their healthcare providers to talk about their symptoms, ask questions, and learn how to adjust their lifestyle as they learned how to live with their illnesses.


The study was small and most participants were white. Also, patients who did not know how to use technology like the electronic diary may not have volunteered for the study. Findings may be different for people of different races and ethnicities or those who have trouble using technology.


Older patients who have multiple health problems find it hard to get their medicines and take them correctly. Patients may not know how to add a new medicine to the ones they are already taking. They may worry about how a new medicine is going to affect their daily life and health. Patients would benefit from guidance on how to discuss their questions and problems with healthcare providers.

Sharing the Results

The research team made instructional videos and other educational materials. They will test the educational materials in a separate study. The research team also wrote articles (see below) and gave presentations about what they learned from this study.

Journal Citations

Related Journal Citations

Stories and Videos

Project Information

Roxanne Vandermause, RN, CARD, CCM
Washington State University
Medication-Taking Preferences & Practices of Patients with Chronic Conditions

Key Dates

June 2012
June 2014

Study Registration Information


Has Results
Award Type
Funding Type
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: March 4, 2022