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Patient Safety and Quality

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New pill card helps patients take medications on time

Free, online instructions for creating a pill card—an illustrated medication schedule—using only a personal or lap top computer and printer are now available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

One in four Americans do not take prescription medicines as prescribed. Adherence to medication instructions is particularly important when people have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart failure. Many people who fail to adhere to medication instructions do so because they do not understand how to take their medicines. Medication non-adherence costs an estimated $100 billion annually in hospital admissions, doctor visits, lab tests, and nursing home admissions.

Research has shown that using a pill card with pictures and simple phrases to show each medicine, its purpose, how much to take, and when to take it reduces misunderstandings. A pill card can serve as a visual aid for confirming that patients understand how to take the medicines properly and as a reminder to take medicines.

AHRQ's How to Create a Pill Card provides step-by-step instructions for making a pill card. A person needs a computer with word processing software, a printer, and information on all of their medicines.

How to Create a Pill Card is intended for anyone who takes medicines regularly or who cares for someone who does. More information can be found at

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