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Medication Non-Adherence: Is There an App for That?

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By Pooja Babbrah, Senior Consultant 

Getting patients to adhere to their medication regimen is a growing problem—and solutions are being sought. The reasons are compelling. Non-adherence to prescribed medications results in $100 to $300 billion in avoidable healthcare costsA significant portion of these costs are borne by payers in the form of avoidable hospitalizations and the progression of members’ chronic diseases. This drives payers to focus on high-risk/high cost populations.  What’s more, medication non-adherence can negatively affect providers’ reimbursements. For example, payments might get reduced due to such causes as excess readmissions or inability to meet quality and cost targets in value-based agreements.   

 So what can be done about it? Given today’s reliance on technology, the question comes to mind: Is there an application (app) for that? The answer is too many of them. 

If you do a search in the App Store for “medication app,” there are myriad patient facing applications with a wide range of functionality. However, they are a work in progress in terms of meeting the needs of patients and payers in addressing medication non-adherence. In addition, there is limited data available on how such apps affect patient behavioral changes and outcomes.   

 Research conducted by the University of Michigan Medical School has shown that successful patient-facing medication adherence apps must consider patients’ health literacy and other social, educational, and health-related issues. One size does not fit all. The researchers developed a framework to evaluate apps in the context of patient engagement and the ability for apps to enable collaboration, participation, and decision-making in one’s own health.

According to the research, such basic functionality as medication reminders and health education are best geared toward patients who are least engaged in their own care. Patients who are moderately engaged in their own care can benefit from apps that allow the patient to track their health, view a summary of their health information and receive guidance on next steps in their care and communicate with their health care providers. Finally, the most active and engaged patients can benefit from apps that provide peer support delivered through social media or ongoing motivational challenges to encourage them to continue investment in their own care. 

Patient ConsultCapturing data from the patient and providing this data and feedback to the care team and/or caregivers are other important requirements for these apps. Yet, this data must be combined with other clinical and behavioral data to be meaningful to payers and providers in helping to target patients who will benefit most from medication adherence technology. This lack of “meaningful” data seems to be causing reluctance among payers and providers to support such applications. 

However, that doesn’t mean that there is a lack of interest among other stakeholders in the industry.  Population Health Management vendors and Medication Therapy Management vendors are two stakeholders where patient facing medication adherence apps may play a greater role in their technology portfolios. We will explore both in future blogs. 

Pooja Babbrah

Pooja Babbrah

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