It’s a well-known problem: People with high blood pressure aren’t great about taking their meds as prescribed. But a new study finds the solution may be as simple as a meaningful conversation.

Researchers found low-income patients with high blood pressure are much more likely to take their medications as directed when their doctors asked open-ended questions, checked their understanding of instructions and asked about social issues such as employment and housing.

“When healthcare providers ask patients about life challenges or take the time to check their patient’s understanding of instructions, it signals that their healthcare provider genuinely cares about them and provides the motivation and confidence to manage their health issues on their own,” said the study’s lead author Antoinette Schoenthaler, Ed.D., an associate professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

Doctors can work with community health workers, nurses or medical assistants to help identify resources for patients who have difficulty taking their medicines, she said.

In the study, published Tuesday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Quality and Outcomes, researchers audiotaped interactions between 92 patients and 27 providers over three months from three practices that serve a multi-ethnic, low-income population in New York City. An electronic monitoring device recorded the time and date each time patients opened the pill bottle.

Overall, black patients were less likely to take their blood pressure medications compared to white patients, especially when social issues were not discussed.

“Unemployment, for example, affects whether patients can afford medication, which is a primary risk factor for non-adherence. If these issues go undiscussed, healthcare providers may never figure out why patients are not taking their medications,” Schoenthaler said.