Just how big of a problem is prescription non-adherence? According to reports, half of patients requiring medication for chronic conditions do not follow their prescribed treatments, and about a quarter of all prescriptions are never filled. The impact is significant, reportedly resulting in 125,000 deaths a year, causing 10% of hospitalizations, and costing the healthcare system as much as $289 billion annually. Additionally, this can lead to increased physician morale and contribute to higher burnout rates.
Lack of adherence could be the result of any number of underlying causes, including fear, forgetfulness, lack of clarity, confusion, too many medications, lack of trust, or simply a lack of desire. Regardless, it’s a problem that impacts the healthcare community as well as patients’ families, all of whom are eager to find solutions that will help, and they are looking to technology for an answer.
Seventy-one percent of caregivers say they are interested in technology that will help support their tasks, and 59% say they would use available technology. In fact, technology to help with prescription refills and pickups, assessing health needs and conditions, and monitoring prescription adherence are all in the top five technology interests according to caregivers.
How can Remote Patient Monitoring Help?
Remote patient monitoring, part of the broader connected health technology umbrella, is poised to help. RPM is a technology-based healthcare delivery method that allows healthcare providers to collect patient data created by a variety of medical devices, ranging from specialized equipment for specific conditions to consumer wearables and even manually entered data from non-connected devices.
- Medical devices, such as biosensors, blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors, heart implants, and others, automate collection of patient data and vital signs and make understanding patient conditions easier.
- Consumer devices, such as activity trackers, smart watches, and smartphones, allow tracking and monitoring of activity levels and heart rates.
- Online patient portals that are part of RPM platforms allow patients or their caregivers to manually enter data into records, emulating automated transmission of connected devices.
- Medication-specific apps can deliver automated medication reminders via text message, email, voice, or even video. Digital pillboxes make it easier for patients to remember which medication to take, and can transmit data to caregivers when medication has been taken (or alert them when it has not).
- Advanced technology like ingestibles use tiny sensors embedded in medication that measure patient data upon consumption. These sensors dissolve over time.
Data collected using any of these RPM methods is stored in patient records, where it is accessible to physicians and other caregivers. Providers can also be automatically alerted when defined thresholds are met or to alert them of any irregularities. Some RPM solutions can also facilitate video communication between patients and physicians for easy face-to-face interactions.
Considering that 74% of physician office visits and 80% of hospital visits involve some sort of medication, RPM can be a significant source of information on whether patients are taking their medications, as well as how they are reacting to them and to what extent their medications are achieving desired results. Importantly, automated or patient-entered data takes the administrative burden off the healthcare system, saving time and cost and allowing physicians to spend more time working directly with patients.
Benefits of RPM related to medication adherence and effects include:
Monitoring adherence – Patient data from RPM devices deliver data that helps physicians track relevant statistics that indicate how medications impact patient conditions, including alerting them when patients may not be taking medications as directed. Importantly, RPM can also deliver information to non-professional caregivers, like family and friends, to help them more effectively facilitate prescription adherence, helping ensure treatment plans are followed.
Rapid intervention – Thanks to recurring data from RPM solutions, healthcare providers are able to quickly identify when patients are failing to follow treatment protocols or when prescribed treatment is not have the desired effects. If conditions persist or become more severe, they are able to quickly intervene and adjust prescriptions. The ability to react in real time to of changing conditions can potentially avoid hospitalization or worse.
Drug effectiveness – Understanding how patients react to their medications, including combinations of different drugs, can help physicians and pharmaceutical companies better understand the effects of medications on conditions or patient populations. This, in turn, allows them to more effectively prescribe treatment, and can drive more effective use of artificial intelligence in identifying the best treatment options.
Patient engagement – Because of the recurring nature of data collection and transmission with RPM solutions, patients inherently become more aware of their conditions and treatment needs. This increased level of engagement can help them adhere to their medication schedules, reducing the potential for regression, with the potential to increase their general well-being.
Remote Patient Monitoring is built on a foundation of leveraging high volumes of patient data to help physicians and other caregivers become better informed about patients and their conditions, with the ultimate goal of delivering better outcomes. Considering the ramifications of non-adherence, increasing prescription adherence has the potential to enhance outcomes, increase the efficiency of the healthcare system, and reduce costs for patients, providers, and payers.
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