By Kim Radefeld
One of the biggest (and costliest) problems in today’s U.S. healthcare system is the lack of prescription drug and daily-use medical equipment adherence. In fact, non-adherence costs the system an estimated $290 billion annually.
According to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, two-thirds of Americans who take prescription medications are non-adherent, meaning they are not taking their medications as prescribed. This non-adherence has a domino effect on patients, especially those who suffer from chronic diseases that require a frequent medication regimen, causing them to be in worse health. While adherence rates for daily-use medical equipment vary, the issue remains the same – patients and providers/manufacturers must work together to improve rates that will result in positive outcomes for all stakeholders.
The Six Barriers to Adherence
While patients, especially those who are managing chronic diseases, face a number of challenges, studies have identified the six most common issues that result in non-adherence.
Knowledge – Patients often have inadequate knowledge, or misunderstanding of, and negative perceptions of their disease, tests, risks and treatments necessary to treat or control their disease.
Coverage – Depending on the type of tests and disease, patients may be faced with inadequate reimbursements or coverage that deters them from obtaining the testing or medical equipment necessary to manage their ailments.
Side Effects – In terms of medical equipment, patients may experience fears of x-ray radiation, MRI claustrophobia, effects of treatments or technology used. Similarly, patients may be fearful of the side effects mentioned in the drug guides of their medication that will deter them from obtaining the tests or drugs necessary.
Cost – As healthcare costs rise, patients may avoid certain tests or daily-use equipment due to high co-pay rates or out-of-pocket payments.
Disease – Depending on the disease, severity of symptoms, level of disability due to the disease, rate of progression, and availability of effective treatments, patients may weigh the risks and benefits of certain treatments before proceeding even though they’re encouraged by their physician.
Social Support – The existence of a patients’ effective social support network, whether they are part of a culture or hold certain beliefs about their disease and treatment, has been shown to have a serious effect on their adherence to prescribed treatments and testing.
The adherence services market totaled $300 million in 2011 and is estimated to grow to $1.2 billion in five years. Additionally, average dedicated patient adherence budgets increased 281% in the last four years.
Collaboration between patients, their physicians and medical manufacturers (drug and equipment) is crucial to improving adherence rates. For example, medical manufacturers can help patients by incorporating patient-centric initiatives using the insight gained from adherence barriers into their development and product launch plans. Whether in-house or in partnership with a third party expert, developers and designers of medical equipment can help educate patients by providing proper communication in terms they can understand to ease any fears or combat other factors that affect their adherence.
Medical tests and proper use of equipment are as important as medications. If patients don’t adhere to the necessary tests or treatment utilizing daily equipment, they are putting their health at risk and further contributing to the astronomical non-adherence costs.
Although these costly behaviors are problematic, they’re not insurmountable. They require a strategic partnership between medical companies, providers and knowledgeable consultants who can develop a customized patient engagement program to help increase adherence rates. An experienced partner will evaluate and identify all the potential barriers to adherence and develop a program utilizing highly-trained healthcare professionals who will communicate with patients via their preferred channels and will work to keep those patients motivated and compliant.
As the issue of non-adherence continues to be a serious problem in today’s healthcare system, the importance of collaboration among all stakeholders will become even more important before the rates of adherence will improve.
As Sr. Director, Healthcare Solutions at Telerx, Kim is responsible for new solution/product development for the healthcare marketplace. She specializes in research and analysis, brand development and strategy, marketing positioning and execution in accordance with corporate mission and strategy. Telerx offers complete management of complex and sensitive interactions in the healthcare marketplace, including access and reimbursement, pharmacovigilance, product recalls and critical events, quality and compliance, and patient assistance, among others.