A Digital Prescription for Medication Adherence
Medication adherence is a $337 billion problem in the US healthcare industry.1 Patients failing to take their prescriptions or follow treatment plans result in more than $100 billion every year in hospitalizations alone, and healthcare spending on noncompliant patients is nearly double the cost of abiding patients. By solving the issue of medication adherence, insurers could save money through the reduction of unnecessary costs and providers would have healthier patient populations and fewer accident procedures.
Telehealth can reduce the prevalence of patient error
Unfortunately, the causes for poor medication adherence are many and complex. Patients forget to take their medicine, don’t fully understand their prescribed regiment, or decide the treatments are not needed or not to their liking. Physicians may contribute to the issue by failing to fully describe the regimen and side effects, disregarding the patient’s socio-economic status or lifestyle, or by simply having a poor relationship with the patient.2
Technology, specifically telehealth, may offer solutions to assist the provider and the patient in keeping track of their treatments. Telehealth – a method for enhancing healthcare, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies – is a rapidly growing segment of the healthcare landscape. In 2014, telehealth spending was valued at nearly $16 billion and it is expected to increase to nearly $20 billion by 2019.3 The telehealth umbrella contains many different communication methods between a doctor and a patient including email, video conferencing, websites, and mobile apps.
So how do telehealth technologies address the issue of medication adherence?
- They offer enhanced remote monitoring through the use of healthcare IoT – such as glucose trackers, ECG monitors, pacemakers and smartphones – and can provide doctors and nurses with real-time feedback about a patient’s condition.
- Smartphone apps can remind patients of their prescriptions and provide backup directions in case the patient is confused about their regimen.
- Emails and video conferences provide easy check-ins to ensure compliance and understanding.
Furthermore, patients are ready and willing to use their mobile phones and other technology to take care of themselves. About 30% of patients already use computers or mobile devices to check their medical or diagnostic information, and about 74% of patients are comfortable communicating with their doctors using technology instead of seeing them in person.4 As one analyst states, “Smartphones, connected medical accessories, and apps have been underutilized by the healthcare industry. In 2016, care will begin to shift into the palms of consumers’ hands, helping to drive down costs, increase access, and fulfill the public’s desire for ‘anywhere, anytime’ monitoring, diagnosis and treatment.”5
Keeping patients and their care providers connected in near real-time rather than at long intervals can hopefully address some of the issues with medication adherence. And while medication adherence is a significant problem to tackle with telehealth technologies, it is surely just the tip of the iceberg. As with other industries, the introduction of new technologies that empower consumers will drive change. It’s always best to ride the waves of change rather than be stranded in the ocean or find it crashing down on you.