This blog is part of a series introducing the concept of the Healthiverse, explaining why it’s essential to eliminate the siloes between care team members, and exploring the benefits that a more united healthcare universe can deliver to different key stakeholders in the industry.
Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in patients delaying care, potentially worsening chronic conditions, and leading to serious illness. But new technologies could play a role in eliminating barriers to patient engagement and improving medication adherence.
Why Is Medication Adherence Important?
Medications can’t work when patients don’t take them, which has especially serious consequences for certain health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Studies show that nonadherence to treatments and medications causes more than 100,000 deaths per year and costs the country up to $300 billion.
Approximately four billion prescriptions are written annually, but only about three billion of them are filled.
Approximately two billion of those are not taken as prescribed. And this nonadherence leads to chronic disease treatment failures and negative outcomes for patients.
One could argue that drug manufacturers know the most about the medications they’ve brought to market – how to take it, what side effects it could have, drug interactions that may exist. But it’s not so easy for them to share this knowledge with patients in meaningful ways, contributing to over a quarter of prescribed therapies going unfilled, and therefore unutilized.
From Mass Media to Mobile
Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally had limited options for communicating with and educating patients. And each of these options had significant flaws or drawbacks. But technology advances like mobile devices and apps, along with changes in patient behavior, have opened a new avenue for engagement and education.
Historically, the first option has been mass media, which is an extremely expensive and very broad approach to reach patients. The other method of communicating and educating patients before a prescription was filled involved passing documentation and drug information to the patient through an intermediary, such as a healthcare provider, hospital, or pharmacist. This is arguably more efficient and helps to get targeted communications to the correct audience, but those messages aren’t always being shared or even read or remembered.
Worse, in the age of COVID-19, this avenue of communication and education has all but vanished for pharmaceutical companies. Many providers and hospitals are looking to limit people coming into their offices for fear of spreading the coronavirus. This has made it increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical reps to physically visit providers to deliver medication samples, important documentation, and information for patients.
New healthcare technology solutions are enabling digital engagement with patients via email and mobile devices at a time when patients are looking to become more empowered, more involved, and more educated about their health. By communicating via the digital tools that patients prefer, pharmaceutical companies can more effectively reach them with the specific information they need – even if they can’t share it personally with doctor’s offices because of COVID.
For example, let’s say a patient is having an eye problem and is prescribed ocular drops. Or, let’s say they require an injectable drug. In the past, the healthcare provider could demonstrate how to administer these medications. However, in a telehealth environment, that may not be as easy to do. New technologies can be used to share detailed, educational videos with patients to help them use and administer their medications appropriately.
But that’s not all digital communications can enable.
Fighting Non-Adherence with Engagement
New technologies are helping pharmaceutical companies improve medication adherence in meaningful ways.
Just as digital communications can help improve adherence for the first time a prescription is filled, it can also help more patients continue to take their medications as prescribed. Often, patients may stop taking their medicine because they feel better and mistakenly decide they no longer need it. Tailored, digital interventions could be sent at milestones or when prescription refills are required to encourage patients with chronic health conditions to stay on their treatment plans.
New technologies are opening the door to increased communication with patients, allowing for targeted and timely interventions, and making it possible for pharmaceutical companies to educate patients and help prevent nonadherence. With COVID-19 eliminating one of the two traditional avenues that pharmaceutical companies had to educate and inform patients, the timing couldn’t be better. By embracing digital communications with patients, pharmaceutical companies can help them stay on life-saving therapy and decrease the tremendous financial toll of medication nonadherence.