How Data Could Help Patients Adhere to Their Medications

It’s widely acknowledged that patients who take their medications as prescribed have been health outcomes than those that don’t.

Despite this, there are thousands of patients all over the world that don’t stick to their treatment regimens. Estimates suggest that 3 in 4 people don’t take their medications consistently as and when prescribed; sometimes leading to hospitalisation and adding billions of dollars to the healthcare bill in the process.

Patients skip their medication for lots of different reasons; maybe they are experiencing side effects that impact their day to day lives, perhaps they live out of town and can’t get to a pharmacy every time they need a new batch of medication, they could simply be forgetful.

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There are hundreds of reasons as to why patients don’t adhere to their medication perfectly. In fact, the world of pragmatic trials is working to build less-than-perfect adherence into trial designs so that we have a better idea of patient outcomes in the real world. In the real world, adherence isn’t perfect.

Given that we know that better adherence translates to better outcomes, there is room for the healthcare industry to help patients to improve their adherence.

Ultimately there is no one size fits all solution to the problem of poor patient adherence – that’s to be expected when there are so many reasons that contribute to the problem. One thing that can help though, is data.

Being able to use a patient’s electronic health record to pinpoint who is most likely to skip their medications, and when, will shed some much needed light on why. Knowing why means we are in a stronger position to change things to ensure the patient is able to adhere to their medication schedule more closely.

Some companies, particularly in the US, are already working to embed technology into their processes in an effort to improve patient adherence.

One such company is CVS – America’s largest pharmacy chain (over 9,600 locations as of 2016), and an online drugstore and pharmacy. CVS Health are using data to assign scores for each patients; the higher the score, the higher their risk of non-adherence. As each patient’s data is screened, the score changes. Condition-specific interventions are then triggered when different scores are reached. These interventions range from a periodic check-in call from a pharmacist, to alternative packaging options and comprehensive medication reviews.

CVS also has a smartphone app, which can send alerts to patients when they are due to run out of medication. 15 million customers have already signed up to receive these alerts so they no longer need to remember when to refill their prescriptions.

What do you think of this use of patient data – is it something you’d like to see come to the UK over the coming years? Leave a comment, we’d love to hear your thoughts!