Healthcare providers, along with insurance companies, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies, have a vested interest in ensuring patients follow medication and other prescribed treatment protocols. It hasn’t always been easy: as many as 30% of prescriptions are never filled, and half of chronic disease medications are not taken as prescribed.
Whether the non-adherence is intentional or unintentional, the impact on the healthcare system is dramatic. The cost to the system is estimated to be $100-300 billion, including failed treatment program rates as high as 50%, as many as 25% of all hospitalizations, and some 125,000 deaths. It also places an additional workload on an overburdened system already facing a physician crisis.
Until recently, healthcare professional had limited resources at their disposal for ensuring adherence. But, new connected health technologies, along with the proliferation of mobile devices among patients, offer new opportunities to keep patients on their prescribed treatment plans, whether that’s taking the right medication at the right times, performing physical exercise, or both.
Electronic Health Records
The integration of fully digitized patient records allow easy updating and sharing of patient data, including historical records pertaining to treatment or medication adherence. Data can be appended to EHRs manually through patient portals or mobile apps, or automatically from connected devices that measure various health statistics that can indicate adherence or missed medication.
Remote consultations can help increase information exchange between patients and their physicians, pharmacists, therapists, or other prescribing healthcare professionals. They can be pre-arranged on a recurring basis to help increase patient engagement and develop better patient-physician relationships, with the hope that the result will be increased adherence. They can also be scheduled ad hoc when adherence slips and patients fail to follow prescribed programs.
Connected Health Devices
There are a variety of connected devices that can help physicians and other healthcare professionals monitor patient activity and adherence. These can range from activity trackers to glucose monitors to connected pill boxes to monitoring patches, and more. They are all designed to measure and/or monitor specific activities or vital signs, record them, append them to EHRs, and alert healthcare professionals or family members if patients fail to adhere to their prescribed treatments, like missing a set of pills or failing to walk enough for consecutive days. Monitoring devices can also alert physicians to changing conditions, so they are able to appropriately adjust treatment programs or prescriptions.
Mobile apps and text messaging systems can be set up to deliver personalized reminders to patients to take medications or follow exercise routines, based on any number of variables. They can be set for specific times or when certain readings from connected devices exceed established thresholds. Mobile apps can also be used for data input from patients when they have accomplished their goals, whether those are medication or activity related. That data can them be automatically appended to EHRs to up-to-date information.
The key is that connected health enables increased communication and engagement between healthcare providers and patients, which can help drive increased adherence rates and create better outcomes.
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