The estimated cost of medication non-adherence is 290 billion dollars per year in the United States alone, according to a report by CVS Health. Keeping patients healthy when on prescription medication can be challenging when non-adherence is at play, and there really is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are some strategies have been shown to help address underlying factors, like forgetting to refill prescriptions to other factors like cost.
In this blog, I’ll break down 7 modern strategies that can be implemented in order to help improve adherence among all patient groups.
1. Utilize content to improve medication-related patient education
As more and more healthcare organizations flock to mobile, with that comes the need for high-quality content. A common reason for medication non-adherence is often times the fear of adverse side effects or potential risks.
Explaining the benefits or expected side effects to patients during face to face interactions has been found to not always be helpful (for various reasons). Patients may either look in the wrong place online for information, or may not remember what was discussed during a visit.
By leveraging content in a new way that highlights not only what to expect, but the benefits of certain medications, providers can help to reassure patients as to why sticking to their medication regimen is a good idea.
2. Prescribing mobile apps
Mobile health applications are a relatively recent strategy that when used strategically can improve medication adherence. For younger patients familiar with technology (as well as older patient groups), The Journal of Medical Internet Research found in a study that apps do help improve adherence when used properly.
For more information on using mobile strategically to solve problems like medication adherence, check out these healthcare app blueprints created in response to common problems facing healthcare systems today.
When seeing a patient, many physicians are now walking patients through how to use their mobile app to set medication reminders during pre-op and post-op using various perioperative apps. This is a great opportunity to help patients say on track with their medication regimen when they otherwise wouldn’t.
3. Pharmacist-led intervention
While still effective, automated phone technology when used as an intervention has been proven to boost medication adherence in studies involving patients with gout. This low-touch method was found to be 13 percent more effective in contrast to patients who did not receive the intervention.
This intervention was implemented via the phone as an interactive response system on 1463 patients over the course of one year. For patients that may not utilize alerts or reminders, but are likely to answer the phone, this strategy is an effective one that pharmacies can use to target patients that respond better to calls.
4. Text-message “Nudging”
One intervention that is currently in the works at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute is focusing on the concept of ‘nudging’ through the use of text-messaging. This nobel-prize winning theory championed by economist Richard H. Thaler is currently being studies in a 12-month trial to improve medication adherence.
In addition to text messaging, the intervention also includes emails, voice recordings and calls, social media, and integrations with Apple Watch, Alexa, and other AI capabilities.
5. Lowering prescription costs
The the cost of medication has been found to be a significant contributing factor for non-adherence in patient groups that could not afford the cost of medication. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology also revealed that patients who received subsidies, specifically Medicare part D, were more likely to stick to their medication treatment regimen as opposed to those concerned with high costs.
Making patients aware of state pharmaceutical assistance programs are another one of the more common ways patients can relieve the burden of high prescription costs, in addition to applying for the Extra Help program.
From promoting competition among pharmaceutical companies to taking advantage of new assistance programs, making prescription drugs more affordable will undoubtedly have a major impact on adherence rates moving forward.
6. Using Data to Help Non-Adherent Patients
Tackling adherence rates is becoming more of a priority for both pharmacies and health systems, as technology is helping healthcare providers gain increased visibility into patient profiles and medication adherence histories.
By viewing trends over time and having this data to assist in the decision making process, providers can more accurately assess the interventions that would be most effective. Healthcare data exchange and interoperability are important topics not going away any time soon, and will be interesting to see what role they will begin to play within pharmacies.
7. On-Demand Medication Delivery
For some patients with a lot of prescription medications, refilling them can be a pain. Not only can waiting in line be a hassle, the process of sorting through different dosage schedules can be a huge time suck.
For some patients that may be prone to skip days or take incorrect dosages, online on-demand services have been popping up to help address this common problem by delivering medications straight to a patient’s door.
Companies like PillPack deliver prescribed medications to the patient’s place of residence, containing all the prescribed medications they need for the day in convenient daily packets. This eliminates the burden of any type of medication prep and can help eliminate human error.
The solution to medication non-adherence is not a one-size-fits all approach to say the least. With ease of use and interoperability of healthcare data constantly evolving, the potential that technology (like smartphones) have on the future of healthcare is enormous.