Medication adherence: High tech still needs a personal touch

September 9, 2016

Where do the capabilities of healthcare technology end and the need for the human hand begin to deliver top value for managed care executives?

Healthcare technology simultaneously grinds away like a rusty squeezebox (i.e., EMRs & interoperability) and advances at breakneck speed in a constant attempt to support the industry sea-change born by the advent of value-based care.

Venture capital funding in healthcare information technology alone reached $1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2016, according to Mercom Capital Group.

Every day my colleagues and I at Curant Health evaluate new technologies purporting to improve medication adherence, particularly for chronically ill patients. Depending on study parameters, medication nonadherence represents between $100 million and $300 million in wasted healthcare spending every year. We are also big fans platforms which  connect multiple members of a patient’s care team and provides them with data to improve outcomes.

Our own EMR, in which we have invested heavily, secures information critical to obtaining high rates of medication adherence and the associated improvements in value for clinicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers and payers.

Related: Top tech needs for value-minded executives

The current limits of “smart everything”

Healthcare technology innovation and the Internet of Things has brought what seems like “smart everything” to healthcare. Many of these innovations are profound, life saving and value-based. However, there remains an easily identifiable limit to technology’s ability to impact factors that affect outcomes, such as medication adherence, at which point the only solution is a caring human hand or voice that seeks to understand why a patient is exhibiting non-adherence to costly medication therapies.

A trusting relationship between a pharmacist or patient care coordinator is required to obtain insights directly from the patient, without which medication adherence will always suffer. This will continue to be true for the foreseeable future, especially as the cost of prescription medications continues to skyrocket and diseases like cancer trend towards being treated as chronic conditions. Support of this evolution will require indefinite amounts of time required on nascent therapies such as new oral oncolytics and eventually oral immunotherapeutics.

In one glaring example of wasted time, energy and expense, a Texas patient referred to a leading clinic in Minnesota was issued a prescription, sent home and told to return in three months. At the conclusion of those three months, the compliant patient flew back to the clinic as directed. When seen by the physician and asked how the medication therapy was working, the patient replied, “I haven’t even received it yet. The insurance payment has not been approved and I can’t afford the drug without it.”

Next: The human touch

 

 

The lasting value of the human touch

A human bridge, one designated to span the chasm between the patient, clinician, manufacturer and payer, could have prevented this waste at minimum and accelerated the process by which the patient received their medication, generating an improved, possibly live saving outcome at best. Know where the limitations of technology currently lie and precisely when the human hand and a trusted, caring voice is required to improve medication adherence, outcomes, value and lives.

We eagerly await the day when technology realizes its full potential to improve medication adherence. Accelerating its arrival, along with the realization of true value-based care will continue to require human ingenuity, commitment and compassion.

 

Marc O’Connor is chief operating officer for Curant Health. Curant Health provides medication management, patient support and pharmacy fulfillment services for patients nationwide.