It seems like it should be so simple.
Open a bottle, put a tiny pill in your hand, put it into your mouth, take a swallow of water and, presto, the whole routine is done. The pill’s pharmaceutical properties will do battle with whatever it's assigned, and you’ll feel better. If you’re managing a chronic condition that requires multiple medications, topical creams or injections, then a seconds-long process may become a longer one. However, it’s still a relatively simple one per the benefit.
Except it turns out it’s not so simple. Studies conducted by the Annals of Internal Medicine show that 20–30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled. For chronic conditions, that goes up to 50 percent.
This is a costly — and complex — problem. The review by AIM, according to the Advisory Board, “found that poor medication adherence causes approximately 125,000 deaths each year, as well as at least 10 percent of hospitalizations that occur in a given year. Overall, the review estimated that poor medication adherence costs the U.S. healthcare system between $100 billion and $289 billion annually.”
Some of the medication adherence problems can be mitigated by using the latest technologies. Automated refill reminders through text, voicemail or email are an efficient way to nudge patients toward adherence. Using a digital patient engagement platform such as PatientBond to deliver reminders and wellness messages is a huge ally in this effort.
But the reality is that all the reminders in the world won’t necessarily boost adherence significantly. There are issues like cost, accessibility and fears of side effects or loss of control among some patients. Let’s walk through some ways to boost adherence and, conversely, look at some of the reasons why people might not take their medicine.
Because the whole process of taking a pill is a relatively quick and painless one, it can be easy to forget. The patient has a tennis match in the morning, a bridge game in the afternoon, grandkids in between. Sometimes it’s harder to remember to do a simple act in between those more complicated ones.
But taking a pill? Forgetfulness happens, especially among older people. Reminders are critical. PatientBond can help eliminate this problem by not only sending patients reminders, but by using psychographic segmentation to tailor these messages to patients’ unique motivations and preferences. (More on this critical factor below.)
2. Prescriptions By Mail
This is a patient-centric, convenient (and in some cases, empathetic) approach to people with an illness or infirmity. If you are fit and healthy, heading to the local pharmacy isn’t a big deal. In fact, for some people it can even be an enjoyable excursion.
However, if you are an 81-year-old widow with cataracts, driving even a mile or two to the local pharmacy can be daunting. Encourage and enabling prescriptions to be filled by mail can be an effective way to boost adherence.
3. Copay Assistance
Here’s a simple reason why a patient may not adhere to their medication regimen: They can’t afford it. Hospitals need to take the lead in using their platforms to advocate for people who need their services and match patients to copay assistance services.
However, extensive research my team conducted during my career at Procter & Gamble found that less than 20 percent on non-adherence could be attributed to cost (and dosage). Many more reasons for nonadherence were more emotional in nature. Driving adherence in a meaningful way would require a deep understanding of patients’ attitudes, beliefs and motivations. Psychographic segmentation allows this understanding and enables more personalized messaging to activate desired behaviors.
4. Personalized Wellness Messages
For some patients, simply saying “you have to take your medicine” works. Others may be suspicious of “Big Pharma,” are suspicious of medicine itself or just don’t like being told what to do with their bodies.
PatientBond can help with communications that are personalized with psychographic insights that appeal to individual patient motivations. In fact, PatientBond’s proprietary model divides patients into five distinct psychographic segments. And we all know someone in each one, from the proactive, wellness-oriented type who seldom needs a reminder to take their pills (Self Achievers, who make up 24 percent of the population) to the Willful Endurers (27 percent of the population) who harbor some of the deepest suspicions at medication’s safety and efficacy.
Each psychographic segment requires a different engagement strategy — both message and channel mix — to be effective at activating desired behaviors. What motivates action in one psychographic segment won’t necessarily work for another segment. This is why PatientBond personalizes its messages to the specific recipient’s psychographic profile and adjusts the channel (email, text message, automated phone call, etc.) and frequency of message accordingly.
Medicine can be intimidating and expensive, but framed correctly with an empathetic, patient-centric and personalized approach, patients — even the most difficult-to-reach ones — can live longer, healthier lives. And, with that, we all win.