In Technology/Innovation, Translation/Localization

The Internet is, perhaps, the most powerful tool in the world. It even has the power to get people to take their prescription medications! For pharmacies, ensuring “patient adherence” with prescription medications means better business.

What is Patient Adherence?

The concept of getting people to “do what the doctor ordered,” whether it’s physical therapy, or getting surgery, or taking prescription medications, is called “patient adherence.” Lack of patient adherence is incredibly costly:

  • 125,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
  • Responsible for 10% of all hospitalizations
  • Costs the U.S. health system $100 and $289 billion each year.[1]

A Major Challenge: Medication Adherence

A subset of patient adherence is medication adherence, which is patients taking prescription medication as ordered. Medication adherence is one of the biggest challenges in healthcare. Studies show a third of kidney transplant patients don’t take their anti-rejection medications. Nearly half of heart attack victims don’t take their blood pressure meds. Half of children with asthma don’t follow doctor’s instructions for their inhalers.[2] In fact, medication nonadherence rates range from 25 to 50%.[3]

Increased Adherence Benefits Everyone

When a tool becomes available to increase patient adherence, it benefits everyone. First and foremost, patient adherence saves lives. People get and stay healthier. Hospitals and clinics avoid overcrowding. Public and private insurers and funders pay less. Resources are freed up to conduct and fund research.

Online Patient Portals Increase Adherence

Online patient portals demonstrably increase medication adherence. For example, in an extensive study of diabetes patients taking statins, both occasional and exclusive users of online prescription refill services showed substantially higher levels after starting to use online services (by 24-26%).[4] A similar study confirmed that use of patient portals is linked to increased medication adherence across all racial and ethnic groups.[5]

Patient Portals in Other Languages

Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients likewise show increased adherence when using online portals. Unfortunately, LEP patients don’t use patient portals as often. [6] A quick review of popular portal systems used by hospital networks and pharmacies may explain why: very few patient portals are available in languages other than English (and sometimes Spanish).[7]

Multilingual Means Better Business

Common sense tells us that people cannot use an online system written in a language they cannot read. In the U.S. around 22% of the population speaks a language other than English at home.  There are just under 26 million Limited English Proficient individuals in the U.S.  (9% of the population).[8]  That is a whole lot of consumers just waiting to be engaged.

And, of course, retail pharmacies sell a lot more than prescription medications. When it comes to selling everything but prescriptions, research shows that 75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language and 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites.[9]

For retail pharmacies, then, providing online language access for LEP individuals is good business decision. Consumers able to log in and manage their prescriptions online, in their own language, and also browse retail offerings on a translated website are poised to purchase.   Offering localized patient portals as well as websites and/or mobile apps, along with phone and/or video interpreting services in-store, creates positive customer experiences and brand loyalty.

Vocalink Global supports software and mobile application developers, web designers, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers to create inclusive online environments for Limited English Proficient consumers. Want to learn more? Connect with us today!


[1] The Cost of Not Taking Your Medicine,

[2] Id.; citing and .

[3] Adherence and healthcare costs,

[4]Use of the Refill Function through an Online Patient Portal is Associated with Improved Adherence to Statins in an Integrated Health System,

[5] Refilling medications through an online patient portal: consistent improvements in adherence across racial/ethnic groups,

[6] Casillas, A., Moreno, G., Grotts, J. et al. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2018).

[7] In fact, this author could only find one portal available in languages other than English or Spanish after a couple of hours of research online:


[9] Survey of 3,000 Online Shoppers Across 10 Countries Finds that 60% Rarely or Never Buy from English-only Websites,

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