Nearly a third of rural residents say they've had a doctor's prescription they've not filled, according to a new study.
The Zoom Health study of more than 1300 patients also found that 16 per cent of rural respondents said the reason they had not picked up a prescription was they couldn't spare the time or it was too hard to get to the pharmacy.
Cost was the major barrier for 9 per cent of respondents, with 20 per cent feeling apprehensive about potential side effects from the medication.
Canterbury GP and Zoom Health medical director Dr Daniel Wu said while there could be a number of reasons why patients didn't collect their prescribed medicines, doctors had limited access to timely updates on whether patients were filling their prescriptions.
"Every part of our general practice has over the last 15 years been transformed from a paper based system and brought into the digital era - but prescription delivery process is still stuck in the dark ages.
"Once the patient leaves our practice with their script, there is no sharing of data between the pharmacy and ourselves to ensure they have picked up their medication, says Dr Wu.
"With the downgrade of the postal service, we are having a lot of issues with the mail going missing or not arriving in time. This has meant some patients with chronic conditions quite often don't have enough medication for their diabetes or for their blood pressure," he says.
Zoom Health is launching a new app-based prescription delivery service that aims to address the high levels of medicine non-adherence in rural areas throughout NZ.
Pharmacist Dale Griffiths said the new service was designed to meet the needs of a patient group which was falling through a significant gap in the system.
"Research has shown that improving adherence to medication will have a greater impact to the health of a patient population than any other improvement in specific medical treatments."
He says the study also showed that the majority (57 per cent) of rural respondent admitted to having forgotten to take a prescription medication at some stage.
"Under the current healthcare system, there is no way for doctors to check if patients are filling their prescription let alone taking the medication on time.
Mr Griffiths says the findings of the new study are consistent with similar international research and says some estimates NZ could save over $1 billion a year in unnecessary health care costs if all patients took their preventative medications correctly.
"A 2016 study in the Counties Manukau DHB found a high level of medicine non-adherence with around 20 per cent of prescriptions given to the 100,000 patients that present to the DHB each year not filled.
"While the research showed patients were more likely to be adherent to antibiotics, they were least likely to be adherent to medicines such as those used to treat respiratory disease.
"Often if a patient can't feel an immediate benefit from taking the medication, it can slip off their radar."
The new delivery service would see the patient prescription and mobile number sent to Zoom Health who would then contact the patient to download an app. The Zoom patient app would allow the patient to pay for the medication and delivery as well as providing medicine information and reminders, plus help coordinate their repeats.