Raising Adherence, Digitally: Survey Highlights Opportunities for Pharmacies and Payers to Boost Medication Compliance

This guest blog is one in a series by sponsors of the 2024 PQA Annual Meeting on a survey which highlights opportunities for pharmacies and payers to boost medication compliance. PQA does not endorse, recommend or favor any product, service or organization that is a sponsor.

As pharmacies evolve and embrace digital communications, patient preferences are evolving, too.

More than 95% of patients are comfortable receiving communications about prescriptions from pharmacists, including information about vaccines, according to Outcomes’ 2023 consumer survey. This is not surprising given that 50% of patients said they have been with their local pharmacy for 6-plus years, underscoring the level of trust and loyalty that exists within the patient-pharmacist relationship.

For payers, this is excellent news: The opportunities for pharmacies and payers to elevate their outreach – and outcomes – are at an all-time high. But simply partnering with a pharmacy that dispatches text reminders won’t differentiate a pharmacy or a health plan. Instead, organizations must carefully craft their approach with patients’ needs and preferences in mind.

Digital Interventions

As the Outcomes consumer survey noted, patients are well-accustomed to four out of five electronic means of interacting with pharmacies – namely text reminders (74%). But strengthening engagement demands that pharmacies and health plans think beyond refill reminders to consider: What do patients want? What do they need? And what’s going to improve medication adherence among the individuals who are most difficult to reach?

The right approach can elevate an organization’s brand while achieving desired outcomes. It can also improve patient satisfaction. Here are three ways pharmacies and payers can boost digital communications with the purpose of improving medication adherence, one of the most critical quality healthcare metrics.

 1.      Identify barriers to adherence.

Patients with multiple chronic conditions need a lot of support in managing a multitude of medications. But what an affluent, 65-year-old individual in rural Nebraska needs to stay adherent may be different than what a 50-year-old Medicaid beneficiary in New York requires.

Healthcare organizations need to do more to isolate the barriers to digital engagement, such as language barriers, health literacy, or even technology literacy.

It’s time for organizations to ask themselves: What kind of messaging would resonate most deeply when these barriers are present? If, say, an individual doesn’t speak English as a first language, will text messages trigger a desired action or outcome?

Uncovering the causes of non-adherence can empower health plans to develop patient-centric solutions that dispatch the right message at the right time to positively impact adherence. 

 2.      Use in-person encounters to build deeper connections.

Individuals who refuse to take prescribed medications aren’t always those who proactively seek out guidance. That’s why it’s important to build trust at other touchpoints.

For example, the most popular pharmacy services—those that at least 8 in 10 respondents said they had received or would be open to receiving, according to the survey—included:

  • COVID testing (92%)
  • Blood pressure measurement (91%)
  • Vaccine administration (88%)
  • Personalized medication review of current prescriptions (85%)
  • Telehealth consultations (80%).

Pharmacists can use these encounters to encourage patients to ask questions about their medications, address fears, and so forth. One recent study showed that when pharmacists simply called patients to talk to them about their medication, address barriers, and facilitate refills, the overall adherence rates for diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol medications went up.

 3.      Increase personalization.

No two patients are alike, which is why payers and pharmacists need to deploy personalized medication therapy management (MTM) interventions.

What does that mean? Asking patients how to help them remember to take their medications is an important first step. For example, while assumptions are often made that seniors taking three or more medications prefer pill boxes, payers and pharmacists may find that many prefer fixed-dose combinations or text-based reminders.

Assuming all seniors with three or more medications need pillboxes or text-based reminders, ask patients what would help them remember to take their meds, such as fixed-dose combinations of medications.

The right clinical platform can support payers and pharmacies by addressing medication-related problems and increasing members’ understanding of their medications. This can positively impact Star Ratings, address HEDIS measures, and reduce member abrasion.

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