Ask any physician about a key patient health issue as it pertains to medication and they will tell you it is patient compliance. Simply put, many patients do a poor job at actually taking their medications as prescribed. Community pharmacists have long been able to help reduce hospitalizations and total medical costs commonly associated with non–adherence to medications. In the peer-reviewed journal Population Health Management, Walgreens has recently published a study examining just how these pharmacy interventions can lead to improved medication adherence.
The Walgreens research examined data from over 72,000 patients who initiated therapy within 16 drug classes used to treat common chronic conditions, over a six-month period in 2013. The study, “Improving Medication Adherence and Health Care Outcomes in a Commercial Population Through a Community Pharmacy”, also compared Walgreens patients with those using other pharmacies. The study’s author, Michael Taitel, PhD, noted:
“These findings clearly illustrate that the combination of pharmacist counseling, medication therapy management, refill reminders and telephonic and digital pharmacy interventions, tailored to patients’ needs, drive better adherence. Further, this improvement in adherence results in fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, ultimately benefiting payers by lowering the overall cost of care.”
Here are some highlights of the study:
- Patients eligible for Walgreens pharmacy interventions experienced a 3% greater medication adherence.
- Walgreens community pharmacy patients had 1.8% fewer hospital admissions.
- Overall, Walgreens new-to-therapy patients had 3% lower total healthcare costs then comparable non-Walgreens patients.
- Walgreens community pharmacy patients had 2.7% fewer emergency room (ER) visits.
- On a per patient basis, those in the Walgreens intervention group incurred lower total healthcare costs, including pharmacy (-$92), outpatient (-$120), ER expenditures (-$38), and total health care costs (-$226) over a 6-month period.
Walgreens states that their interventions include pharmacy-based patient counseling, medication therapy management (MTM), and online and digital refill reminders. For new-to-therapy patients, these programs included pharmacist calls and consultations; and for those continuing therapy, included MTM consultations, automated reminders, pickup reminders, late-to-fill reminders and face-to-face consultations.
Another study in Progressive Cardiovascular Disease showed that only about 50 percent of patients with chronic conditions take their medications as prescribed by their physicians.
Walgreens Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Harry Leider, comments on the recent Walgreens research:
“Patients receiving a new chronic diagnosis and medication therapy are at very high risk for non-adherence to medication, and this important study demonstrates how a diverse set of pharmacy and digital interventions improves care while reducing total healthcare costs.”
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