New York — Given the high costs of medication nonadherence to the healthcare system and its responsibility for numerous hospitalizations every year, a number of companies have devised means to combat the problem. One pharmacy benefit manager is doing it online.
Medco Health Solutions announced the creation of what it calls an online safety net designed to alert the PBM’s more than 65 million members of gaps in care and potential drug interactions. The service allows members to register at the company’s website and is in effect whether they fill prescriptions via Medco’s mail-order service or through a retail pharmacy. It includes tools that alert and educate patients about medication safety and adherence risks, and provides 24-hour access to specialist pharmacists who can discuss medication issues.
Medication nonadherence is estimated to cost the healthcare system at least $300 billion a year and results in 33% to 69% of medication-related hospital admissions, according to Medco, which said the new tool closed more than 100,000 gaps in care during the first four months of a pilot program.
Two diseases in particular that showed low levels of adherence in patients were diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 18 million people in the United States are diagnosed with diabetes, but less than 2% of adults are fully taking care of their disease. Among the millions with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, 25% have it under control, and more than 12% of healthcare spending is related to hypertension.
“Health plan payers are well aware of the serious and often costly health consequences from drug interactions and gaps in care that can result in hospitalizations for their members,” Medco chief Web officer Tom Feitel said. “Medco’s advanced online tools are real-time intervention safety nets that put the power to prevent avoidable medication risks into the hands of the member. By encouraging their members to register online, our clients are taking an important step in improving medication safety and reducing both plan and member costs.”
The tool is designed to identify problems related to adherence — such as patients not taking medications they should be taking or failing to refill prescriptions — and sends participants alerts when it finds those problems, as well as educates them about potential risks associated with gaps in care.
In addition to monitoring patients’ prescription drug adherence, the tool includes a program for checking interactions between prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which Medco called the only electronic tool of its kind. It checks any OTC drug, supplement or vitamin purchased through the Medco Health Store against prescription drugs patients are using, alerting them to potential dangers before the purchase is finished, for a total of more than 30 billion potentially harmful interactions.