This article is by Featured Blogger Meghan Chilcott from her Blog Page. Republished with the author’s permission.
Over the course of any given year, the average patient might see their primary care physician only a handful of times. The shortfall stems from the first phone call. Some estimates suggest it can take nearly three weeks to get in to see the doctor — or even longer if the condition requires the attention of a specialized clinician. It's not so for most pharmacies, where wait times are generally measured mostly in minutes — even moments — among the best of the best.
I’d not only call that a decided advantage on the pharmacy side of the counter, but more importantly, it's a prescription for pharmacists themselves to take more immediate, clinically oriented roles in improving medication adherence rates across the board. In my two-plus decades of industry leadership, helping companies better assimilate the benefits of business intelligence (BI) and branding leadership, I’ve directed scores of operational improvement efforts to drive bottom-line growth, while working to improve patient outcomes in the process.
There are many apps for it, but so far, not enough aptitude.
From my perspective, the touch points for greater pharmacy engagement in tackling the issue are ready-made for those eager to pursue medication adherence as a core business strategy — one said to be “the only revenue stream that isn’t under threat,” according to an article from Pharmaphorum.
The High Costs Of Medical Non-Adherence
Now thought to be a conservative estimate in some quarters, medication noncompliance has been widely reported to account for approximately $300 billion in preventable healthcare costs, according to a Modern Healthcare article. That’s quite a number, particularly as it relates to a corresponding 2017 study, also noted in the aforementioned article, indicating more than double the chance of being brought back into the hospital as a result. No doubt, many factors are out of our direct control. Many people struggle to afford their medications, forget to take their medications as directed or overlook their importance.
Yet, there are many tools that are beginning to turn the tide. Here three advantages you can take advantage of:
1. Smart Thinking Through Smartphone Usage
Only a small percentage of smartphone users have a firm grip on healthcare decision making, but more than 60% use their phones to do their own research. Combined with the front-line benefits of filling prescriptions in person, pharmacists have the opportunity to link up with their patients through online chat rooms and use text messaging reminders to confirm dosage schedules.
The results, as reported in the article linked above, favorably show patients are 2.5 times more like to adhere to their medications. The conclusion? The more personal interactions a pharmacist has with their patients, the more likely the patient will take their medications on schedule and in the right amounts.
2. Technology With New Twists
Granted, while there are natural limits to how far technology can go in driving human behavior, great progress has been made in developing “smart” pill bottles and even medications themselves that are infused with sensors. Paraphrasing the words of Dr. George Savage, who is the chief medical officer at Proteus Digital Health, quoted in the Modern Healthcare article above, the real innovation isn’t in a brand-new drug; it’s in a brand-new way to take drugs that already exist.
Still, while there’s great promise for technological advancement on the adherence scale, any new method remains subject to the whims of the patient. That’s precisely why pharmacists of every stripe are likely to be the linchpins in keeping customers interested, engaged and compliant down the line. By and large, it’s less about providing timely reminders and more about delivering reinforcement for the way people live their lives — especially for those living with chronic conditions.
3. Medication Adherence As A New Business Model
Price gouging and incessant annual price increases have put the pharmaceutical industry in an untenable position for the long-term. The revolt from end users has been underway for quite some time and has even begun to gain traction in legislative circles around the country. It seems that the one remaining way to increase revenue — palatably, without blowback — now resides in raising adherence rates.
Tom Kottler, CEO and co-founder of HealthPrize Technologies, in his comments in the Pharmaphorum article above, suggested “entrenched business models are holding companies back” and that most pharma companies could increase revenue simply by boosting adherence rates. One investor's note in the same article predicted that increasing adherence could increase earnings by as much as 20%.
If the simplicity of adherence only worked from a monetary perspective, it would be worth considering. But when you add that patient outcomes improve as a result, the idea becomes compulsory. As Kottler said, “For the first time, big pharma is being required to consider their value — not just in terms of selling medications, but in being responsible for outcomes.”
The Future Of Medication Adherence
Through it all, some basic assumptions are in play. For one thing, it stands to reason that if patients follow directions when taking their medication, they’ll recover faster and be more likely to avoid complications arising from non-adherence. In turn, costs will come down as larger segments of the public adopt more stringent, technologically empowered ways of keeping themselves on the right path.
Caitlin Carroll, director of public affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, predicted as much in the Modern Healthcare article above, saying, “If we can make it easier for people with chronic conditions to properly take their medicine, we’ll see the dividends not only in the additional years people live, but also in the quality of life.”
That’s a way of doing business we can get behind. How will your business have a hand in the innovations that make this possible? It's time to take this technology to task.