by Rebecca Love, MSN, FIEL, Vice President, OptimizeRx
“If patients just took their medication…” As a clinician, I remember thinking this time and time again with my patients as I confronted worsening chronic conditions that I thought were being addressed by medications I had prescribed. I wasn’t alone in my frustration. A report published by the National Institutes of Health shows that medication non-adherence rates are 40%-50% for people with chronic diseases1. That means nearly 1 in 2 patients prescribed a medication simply will not take it. The impact of medication non-adherence is a significant cause of concern for two reasons: the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, and billions of dollars in preventable medical costs to our healthcare system. According to the American Medical Association, “most non-adherence is intentional” – meaning patients make a conscious decision not to take medications. The basic goal of improving one’s health and quality of life would appear to be motivation enough for patients to take their medications; however, patients often forgo taking prescribed medications due to fear, mistrust, cost, or misunderstanding of the medication itself3.
Despite all the factors contributing to non-adherence, there is a significant opportunity to shift that trend of non-compliance by designing patient engagement and treatment support programs around what motivates an individual to achieve better health. For far too long in the world of digital health, programs have been designed around the belief that simple reminders would be enough to change a patient’s behavior. The reality is, there is much more that must be done to impact patient behavior significantly. Success in medication adherence does not lie in taking a medication for the medication’s sake, but in the science, psychology, and technology that delivers what motivates an individual to achieve personal goals regarding their health and life. There are decades worth of research on the psychology of motivation to help create new patterns of human behavior. More recent research also points to the critical role technology plays in delivering programs to help modify behavior. Behavior change is both an art and a science, so the technology used to deliver and implement patient engagement programs must be exceptional in its user design and experience for the patient. However, across healthcare, we have been cautious about investing in innovative patient engagement programs after an initial period of excitement when the technology capabilities had outpaced patient demand.
In the early days of digital patient engagement programs, many of us witnessed spectacular failures that drained resources and didn’t add true value for patients. The truth is that for many of us the interoperability of technologies has been both the lynchpin and barrier to the advancement of adoption of digital programs across healthcare organizations – from hospitals to life science companies. Early program failures have led to significant and incredible improvements in the development of technologies that are driving real outcomes and successful programs that represent the future of healthcare. Interoperability with various consumer health-tracking platforms or devices is possible thanks to open access codes and integrations that can be safe and industry compliant. Times have changed, and we need to consider the impact and value of interoperability on digital engagement programs from a new perspective.
Healthcare consumerism has given rise to an educated patient who increasingly demands the tools to take control of their own health. It is the patient who is driving the adoption of digital technologies. Think of Fitbit and Apple Watch as examples of non-prescribed devices purchased by consumers to help fill a void in managing their health. Consider also the myriad free and paid apps such as Apple Health or Google Fit that people utilize to personally track their health. More than ready for digital health technologies, consumers are in fact demanding them through their purchases and subscriptions. There is a clear market demand for healthcare organizations to keep up with consumer behavior. Instead of reinventing the wheel, healthcare has an opportunity to leverage existing tech infrastructures to create engagement and treatment support programs that seamlessly integrate with the patient’s life.
Industry needs to extend the call for interoperability into patient engagement to create valuable programs that integrate with health technology that patients are already using. Over the course of the last decade, – we have worked with clinicians, life science companies, payers, and patients to implement successful digital engagement and treatment support programs with nimble technology frameworks. We’ve learned that it’s important to consider everyone’s measures of success – for the patient, it’s providing an easier way to achieve personal goals. For a life sciences brand leader, it’s providing a technology infrastructure to deliver their support programs efficiently at scale. For providers, enabling deeper and more accurate insight on a patient’s health management to support their care plan. By all measures, we can drive adherence through a more productive care experience with a patient-centered approach. Technology addresses traditional stumbling blocks of engagement programs from opt-in and enrollment to seamless user experience across multiple modalities. The reality is medication adherence is challenging, but together, we can make it easier for patients.
- Kleinsinger, F. (2018). The Unmet Challenge of Medication Nonadherence. The Permanente Journal, 22. https://doi.org/7812/TPP/18-033
- 8 reasons patients don’t take their medications. (n.d.). American Medical Association. Retrieved July 20, 2020, from https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/patient-support-advocacy/8-reasons-patients-dont-take-their-medications