A leading GP in Whanganui says he and several other doctors in the area are worried about patients not filling their prescriptions.
A study by Zoom Health of 77 people in the Manawatū and Whanganui area found a third of them were not filling prescriptions and half were failing to follow doctors' instructions if medications were picked up.
The company behind the study, Zoom Health, has begun a new prescription delivery service and smartphone app to address the problem.
While the study sample is small, the concerns around prescriptions are shared among the local medical profession, according to Dr John McMenamin, who chairs the Whanganui Regional Health Network's Clinical Governance Group.
"While some of these prescriptions have been provided to be filled only if required, most are prescribed for symptoms or for long-term conditions and some patients are missing out on treatments which help maintain their health," he said.
"Many patients forget to take the occasional medication, but missing pills frequently means patients are not getting the health benefits they should."
Zoom Health's service sends a prescription straight to a pharmacy and the medicine is posted to the patient.
It goes with an app that reminds the patient when to take the medication and the doctor is alerted if the patient isn't following their instructions.
"GPs welcome the development of new services that will help ensure medications are provided in ways that work best for patients," McMenamin said.
Zoom Health's medical director, Dr Daniel Wu, said doctors didn't have time to ensure prescriptions were filled and taken correctly.
"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 the prescription delivery process is still stuck in the dark ages."
Wu said a downgrade of the postal service meant prescriptions often went missing or didn't arrive in time.
He said doctors also had no way of knowing whether a prescription worked out as had been intended.
Zoom Health's study said the main reason people didn't fill prescriptions was because they didn't have the time or it was too hard to get to the pharmacy.