Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Medication Adherence - How technology can help?

Looking for ideas to reduce the rise of health care cost? Easy! Ask patients to swallow their medication!

According to recent studies, the lack of prescription medication adherence cost between $250 and $300 billion annually, including $100 billion in hospitalization. For example, it is estimated that in the US 89,000 deaths annually are due to non adherence to anti-hypertensive treatments. This problem is particularly acute for patients with coexisting conditions who take a variety of medications sometimes prescribed by different physicians.

Obviously doctors and pharmacists have a critical role to encourage patients and caregivers to administrate medication correctly and rigorously.

Cost is not necessarily the main factor: even when drugs are free, adherence rate is 60% in the US and only %50 in developed countries. In other words, improvements in co-payments structures will only partially improve adherence. Another area of possible improvement will be the use of fee-for-service model.

Another way to improve medication adherence is the proper use of specific technologies:

Here are some suggestions:
  • the integration of practice EMRs systems and pharmacies via HIE solutions (a lot of practices are still using paper).
    • online incentive programs (e.g. provided by the employers) to promote prevention, quality of life and best practices in therapy. It is recognized that financial incentives and other rewards when well designed and targeted can improve adherence (smaller and higher reward frequency is usually more efficient than big and sporadic rewards).
    • advances in personalized medicine can help taylored medication intake and increase medication adherence
    With the amount of money at stake, I am sure there is a large number of companies, including start-ups, who are working hard on this problem. So stay tune!

    Finally, we have to keep in mind, that other factors including lifestyle, psychological issues and health literacy play an important role as well. And these are not negligible!