Evidence-Based Reviews

Strategies for improving ADHD medication adherence

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Clinician interventions. Clinicians can use decision aids to help inform families about treatment options, promote shared decision making, and decrease uncertainty about the treatment plan75 (see Related Resources). Early titration of ADHD medications and early first contact (within months of starting medication treatment) between caregivers and clinicians, whether via in-person visit, telephone, or email, have also been related to improved adherence.28 Furthermore, clinicians can improve adherence by prescribing a simplified medication regimen (ie, long-acting formulations that provide full-day coverage). To address the negative impact of high out-of-pocket ADHD medication costs on adherence, clinicians can also prescribe generic preparations and/or “preferred” medications options on an individual patient’s formulary.

Because clinician knowledge and expertise in ADHD care has been linked to improved patient medication adherence,68 clinicians are encouraged to use the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guideline for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, which includes a supplemental process of care algorithm (last published in 2011,10 with an updated guideline anticipated in 2019), as well as the AAP/National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) ADHD Toolkit,76 which includes items helpful for ADHD diagnosis and treatment. The Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics is also developing a clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of complex ADHD (ie, ADHD complicated by coexisting mental health, developmental, and/or psychosocial conditions or issues), with publication anticipated in 2019. Primary care providers can also improve their expertise in ADHD care by pursuing additional mental health–related trainings (such as those conducted by the REACH Institute).77

Because receiving ADHD care from a specialist has been shown to improve medication initiation and adherence,62,69 other strategies to address the short supply of child psychiatrists include offering incentives to medical students to pursue a career in child psychiatry (eg, loan forgiveness). Telepsychiatry and co-location of mental health specialists and primary care providers are additional innovative ways in which ADHD specialty care can be delivered to more patients.64

Finally, providing culturally-sensitive care can strengthen the clinician-caregiver relationship and promote adherence to treatment. For example, clinicians can partner with local groups to increase their understanding of how different racial/ethnic groups perceive ADHD and its treatment.64

Peer support models. Peers are credible role models who have a valued role in facilitating the use of mental health services by empowering families and enhancing service satisfaction.78 In several communities in the United States, peer models using family advocates have been introduced.79 Family advocates are typically caregivers of children who have special needs or have been involved in the mental health system. Their perspective—as peers and first-hand consumers of the health care and/or mental health system—can make them powerful and effective coaches to families of children with ADHD. By helping families to navigate ADHD care systems successfully, family advocates can play an important role in enhancing ADHD medication adherence, although further investigation is needed. In addition, the stigma around ADHD medication use, which adversely impacts adherence, can be mitigated if caregivers participate in organized ADHD-related support groups (eg, Children and Adults with ADHD [CHADD]).

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