Can Technology Improve Patient Adherence?

Updated on June 3, 2017

By Amy Seung, PharmD, BCOP

Adhering to treatment is one of the best ways patients can increase positive outcomes from their needed therapy. However, it’s estimated that nearly half of the 3.2 billion medications prescribed in the United States remain unfilled every year or aren’t taken as prescribed, resulting in large numbers of patients that are  are not adhering to their medication plans. Nonadherence of prescribed medication results in 33 to 69 percent of hospital admissions and approximately 125,000 preventable deaths per year.

While there are many reasons that contribute to nonadherence, lengthened time-to-therapy is a prominent factor. The wide gap between the time patients are prescribed medication to when they first receive their medication is a primary cause for specialty medication non-adherence. Incorporating technology into the prescribing process may be the answer to not only speeding up time-to-therapy, but also improving adherence.

Point-of-care is a crucial tool healthcare providers leverage to assist patients in adhering to treatment. The first step in empowering patients and helping them stay on therapy is acceleration of time to therapy. Some of the challenges associated with this issue can be overcome by simplifying the prescribing process and creating a transparent environment that allows for real-time communication among healthcare providers.

A transition away from linear, paper-based processes to enable multiple healthcare providers to input information in tandem will also accelerate the process. Patient adherence can also be improved by streamlining training and enrollment processes for patients into patient support services. Incorporating healthcare technology applications into Electronic Health Records (EHRs) links all three tactics to ultimately improve adherence.

Incorporating technology into an EHR is one of the best strategies healthcare teams  can use when planning for and prescribing specialty medications to prevent abandonment. Healthcare technology applications, like AssistRx’s iAssist Workflow platform, work seamlessly together by onboarding providers and patients through the start of therapy. These workflows connect patients to services that support them in initiation process andthroughout the entire treatment. iAssist has proven to dramatically reduce time-to-therapy as well as primary abandonment rates across multiple conditions and patient populations. Studies have found that workflows speed up the time from prescribing to initiating therapy. By using a fax-based prescribing method, studies show that time-to-therapy was 22 days compared to 10 days by using technology applications to prescribe specialty medication prescriptions, which resulted in time-to-therapy reduced by 45 percent.

Supporting Case Studies

Recently, studies were conducted to examine the effects of using the iAssist Workflow versus using print-based forms with two therapies for different indications, women’s health and dermatology. The observational case study of the women’s health therapy that was injected weekly examined over 52,000 referrals submitted over seven months. Results showed that patients were 78 times less likely to abandon their therapy if it was submitted through the digital workflow either at initial fill or after the first month of treatment. Patients who whose drug initiation was submitted through the digital workflow had 0.23 percent abandonment compared to the 18.1 percent abandonment of fax-based submissions.

The second set of over 15,000 case studies focused onpatients who self-administered their prescribed dermatology therapy. The results from this case study were more dramatic with a 34.6 percent difference in abandonment rates with the use of healthcare technology. Patients whose therapy request was made through a fax-based process abandoned their medication 60.4 percent of the time. Patients whose therapy was completed through the technology platform only abandoned their prescriptions before it was sent to a pharmacy for fill 25.8 percent of the time. The results of the two case studies demonstrate that using software solutions, like the iAssist Workflow, can strengthen the link between intent to start treatment and evaluating outcomes for patients on-therapy.

Barriers to accessing medication are complex, varied and highly individualized; however, prescribing these specialty medications should not add to those issues. By shortening the time between prescription and initiation of therapy through innovative healthcare software technologies, patients are more likely to adhere to their needed medications. This shift results in not only better treatment outcomes, but also a better patient experience, as patients receive their medications sooner and in a more seamless manner. Once medical practitioners improve the time in which patients receive medication, they can focus on tackling other drivers of nonadherence.

Amy Seung, PharmD, BCOP, is Senior Director of Clinical Development at AssistRx.

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