In the best circumstances, a patient’s journey is straight—they start with a primary care visit where they are diagnosed and given a treatment plan. They follow that plan, continuing to engage with their doctor as their primary source of medical support. If problems arise, they lean on their provider and utilize the resources at their disposal to find long-term solutions.
However, patient journeys are rarely this straightforward. When patients don’t stick to their treatment plans and fail to take their medications as prescribed for reasons in and out of their control, they can experience adverse medical events.
A new nationally representative survey of patients with low-incomes uncovers how medication nonadherence contributes to adverse medical events. In the survey, we see that 57.4% of patients reported experiencing an adverse event due to a medication error and 20% visited an urgent care or emergency department (ED), with 3.8% saying that they were hospitalized for three or more days as a result of medication nonadherence.
With each adverse event, whether it's a headache or an ED visit, the patient journey branches, and critical information slips through the cracks—especially when a patient's primary care provider doesn’t get all of the details.
Beyond the impact on individuals, medication nonadherence places a significant burden on the healthcare system. Nonadherence increases healthcare costs, including hospitalizations, ED visits, and unnecessary diagnostic tests. These avoidable healthcare expenditures strain the resources of healthcare facilities and divert attention away from patients experiencing unavoidable medical events.
Alarmingly, the survey reveals that 32.4% of patients don’t tell their doctors at all if they’ve made a medication mistake even if they experience an adverse medical event. This contributes to providers relying on incomplete information for their treatment decisions, which generates blindspots that can put patients at risk.
But, the survey also reveals that patients are actively seeking help in correctly taking their medications. When asked to rank interventions they would find most helpful, the patients prioritized: having a healthcare professional available for questions (47.2%); daily care check-ins (35.6%); and medication review with their doctor (26%) as the top three most helpful resources to help them improve their medication adherence. These findings show that patients are looking to build stronger relationships with their care providers through additional touchpoints beyond what’s currently available through conventional methods.
It seems simple, but the problem with providing patients with what they’re asking for here is one of availability. Providers are increasingly overburdened and doctors visits are now shorter than ever.
Video Directly Observed Therapy (video DOT) presents a solution that has been utilized for almost a decade in public health. With video DOT, healthcare professionals can connect with patients outside the confines of clinical settings to provide an attainable level of constant engagement.
Going a step further, we take on the burden of providing this engagement via our care team of pharmacists, nurses and health coaches who are ready and able to help patients overcome any barriers to their adherence. Whether it's knowing that a patient is experiencing troublesome side effects for a new medication or being privy to whether a patient visited an urgent care center, our care team gathers valuable insights about patient experiences and shares them with providers and health plans. This collaboration ensures that patients can take their medications as prescribed, reducing the incidence of adverse medical events and ensuring that patient journeys are as straightforward as possible. In addition to the valuable connections with our care team, our 360° medication engagement program includes patient education and linkages to care.
Comprehensive interventions like our program address the root causes of medication nonadherence and provide the necessary support to improve patient outcomes. By offering personalized care check-ins, medication reviews, and access to healthcare professionals, patients receive the guidance and assistance they need to adhere to their treatment plans effectively.
Preventing adverse events requires this type of multifaceted approach. The connection between medication nonadherence and adverse medical events highlights the urgency for healthcare systems to prioritize interventions that provide patient engagement, education, and support. By implementing comprehensive programs like our medication engagement program, health plans can empower patients, reduce healthcare costs, alleviate the strain on the system, and ultimately enhance the overall quality of patient care. Together, we can create a healthcare environment where patients receive the necessary resources to adhere to their treatment plans, resulting in more straightforward and effective patient journeys.