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Looking for the Creative in Health Care

by Ruth Folger Weiss on September 17th, 2010

All of us involved in Health Care are well aware of the import of medication adherence on the part of our patients. Indeed, much of our newest regulations promulgated by plans to mitigate precipitous readmittance to hospitals involves strategies to keep patients on track with their meds.

Insurers, stymied by the reality that millions of adults don’t regularly take their medicine as prescribed by their doctors, are trying to figure out what incentives may improve medication adherence and, in the long run, improve quality and reduce costs.

For the millions of adults, that would actually be somewhere  between one-third and one-half of all patients- who don’t regularly take their medicine as prescribed by their doctors, insurers and others in the healthcare industry are trying to figure out what incentives may improve medication adherence and, in the long run, improve quality and reduce costs.

Alarmingly, one quarter of patients with heart disease discontinue treatment within six months, and compliance for patients taking statin drugs dip below 60% after a few months. It is not surprising that a good number of those patients end up back in the hospital with a stroke, heart attack, or other severe condition that could have been prevented.

The poor compliance not only affects quality—nonadherent patients have higher hospitalization and mortality rates, according to research—but it also makes healthcare more expensive. The overall cost of poor adherence, of course impacts on our healthcare costs and may attribute to 13% of total healthcare expenditures, according to an estimate from the New England Healthcare Institute.

That still doesn’t make me feel good about the less than inspiring approach insurance companies are taking  to incentivize patients. A case in point: Aetna Inc. is funding several pilot projects that test how giving medications to patients for free, rewarding patients for lowering blood pressure, and even giving financial incentives for compliance. And, yes, the financial incentive seemed to have the most positive affect.

Call me “advertising gal”, but I still believe there must be some other creative “aha!” approach to encourage us all to take our meds… and maintain our fiscal and physical health!

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