Improving Medication Adherence is Imminent
In simple terms, medication adherence describes the degree to which a patient takes his or her medications as prescribed or advised.
Many of us take vitamins, fish oil, birth control or prescription medications on a daily basis. We all understand the importance of taking them on time, but when it comes to practice, it’s not easy at all. Many of us find it difficult to manage our pill taking because we forget, don’t want to go through the hassle of managing multiple doses, or have a hard time sticking to our dosing schedule while away from home.
Medication adherence is a big issue in the US. According to research, more than half Americans cannot adhere to their dosing schedule.
In the big picture, non-adherent American patients with cardiovascular diseases alone suffer $300 billion avoidable costs and 125,000 preventable death each year. In the small picture, I used to have to call patients who have missed their refills every Saturday while working as a pharmacist at CVS. You'd be surprised with the number of patients that we have to call. People forget, especially the elders.
According to a masterpiece report from World Health Organization, the causes of non-adherence are very complicated.
The most common causes?
1. The patient forgets to take his meds
2. The patient thinks he is getting better, so he stopped taking his meds
3. The patient took his med, but in the wrong dose
4. The patient is afraid of adverse reactions, so he decides not to take his meds
There are solutions on the market, but most of them merely focus on smart devices or patient education, approaching patients in a one-way mechanism and blocking the way for patients’ feedbacks. Healthcare provider can also set up a complete regimen management plan with adaptive reminders to remind a patient when it’s time for his meds.
Doesn’t sound too hard?
Deploying these solutions is all based on an imperative assumption that we have the data from patients. However, this assumption does not hold, and it creates a huge gap between theory and actual practice.
How do we close the gap?
What we do is to put a receptor and actuator on the patient side. It can be a smart pill case or other IoT devices used to collect the patient’s therapy plan, dosing data, behavior record, and vital signs numbers. An AI engine will then use the data collected to generate a set of comprehensive and customized adherence analysis, non-adherence prediction, drug safety assessment and more. The output should be a complete adherence and health solution to ease the way for both patients and healthcare providers. In this way the solution bridges the cracking loop and involves patients in the optimization process.
At the end, we all want to worry less about pills, and enjoy more about life.
Dr. George Gao is a licensed pharmacist in Kansas and Missouri. He is the owner and manager of iPharma Community Pharmacy, and the co-founder of tech startup company, Nexusera in Kansas City. Before starting his own business, he spent years practicing at Kroger, KU Medical Center, CVS, and OptumRx (UHG). He also serves as a senior member for the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) and ISPOR. Dr. Gao has always been focusing on the drug utilization problem, and it is during his practicing experience where he found the needs of medication adherence and created an adherence management system called O'Kase to solve this real-world problem.