Many years ago, C. Everett Koop (who served as the US Surgeon General during the 1980’s) famously observed that “drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” This may sound like a throwaway line, but it’s serious. Sometimes deadly so.
It’s been estimated that about half of the prescriptions written in the US each year are used improperly – if they’re used at all. And this non-adherence (a term used interchangeably with compliance) with respect to taking medications translates into worse patient outcomes, more illness, more disability, more death, especially for those with treatable chronic conditions. This, in turn, translates into hundreds of billions of dollars in costs to our healthcare system.
What do we mean by medication non-adherence? Adult Meducation offers a good list of how patients, either deliberately or accidentally, fail to comply with “doctors’ orders” when it comes to the drugs they take. Their list includes:
- Failing to initially fill a prescription
- Failing to refill a prescription as directed
- Omitting a dose or doses
- Taking more of a medication than prescribed
- Prematurely discontinuing medication
- Taking a dose at the wrong time
- Taking a medication prescribed for someone else
- Taking a dose with prohibited foods, liquids, and other medications
- Taking outdated medications
- Taking damaged medications
- Storing medications improperly
- Improperly using medication administration devices (e.g., inhalers).
Tackling non-adherence is one arena where connected healthcare (where technology is deployed to deliver healthcare remotely) can really pay off. By measuring and monitoring adherence, and by being able to send reminder notifications, connected healthcare can make sure that everything is going smoothly. With connected products everyone - provider, caregiver, and patient - can be on track, and see whether the patient is taking their medications.
There are a growing number of medication adherence tools on the market. Some of them are aimed at better packaging. E.g., they may enable pharmacists to bundle up small packets of medications organized by what meds a patient takes at specific times of day. This makes it much easier on those who are taking multiple medications. Other applications remind patients when to take their pills, perhaps through by sending a text message. More sophisticated applications monitor whether the pill box has been opened at the right time, and the right medications removed. If this doesn’t happen, the patient or caregiver is sent a reminder.
Moving forward, even more sophisticated applications, such as those that monitor patient vital signs and tweak dosages as needed, will become more routine.
At Orbita, we’re very excited that our platform – the first purpose-built, cloud-based platform designed to optimize home healthcare apps – is helping our customers deliver solutions that are helping improve healthcare, while at the same time decreasing costs. Just what the doctor ordered!