Health IT could help with medication adherence, saving billions, study finds

By Diana Manos
11:00 AM

A new global study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics shows that the use of healthcare IT to increase medication adherence could be a key factor in saving some $500 billion in healthcare spending worldwide.

Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute says the study shows that policies and practices that govern the use of medication are an essential and under-appreciated piece of the global healthcare puzzle.

[See also: Five ways health IT will reduce the cost of care.]

“Harnessing available information to set priorities, monitor progress and support behavior change among healthcare stakeholders – including policymakers, payers, clinicians, nurses, pharmacists and patients – is a vital first step,” he said.

Aitken said the increasing use of data in healthcare makes this a good time to apply the levers suggested by the study to lower healthcare costs, which are:

  • Increase medicine adherence by addressing patient beliefs and behaviors at the point of prescription and during medicine intake.
  • Ensure timely medicine use that prevents avoidable and costly consequences among patients with highly prevalent diseases that increase in severity if diagnosis and treatment are delayed.
  • Optimize antibiotic use to turn the tide on rising antimicrobial resistance worldwide due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics.
  • Prevent medication errors throughout the medicine provision pathway, from prescription to administration.
  • Use low-cost and safe generic drugs where available to leverage the under-exploited opportunity in post-patent expiry markets.
  • Manage polypharmacy where the concurrent use of multiple medicines, particularly among the elderly, risks costly complications and adverse events.

Aitken told Healthcare IT News that the Institute is getting interest in the study from a broad range of stakeholders, including payers, governments, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists, and medicine wholesalers.

“We are hoping that what we’re doing is triggering a significant amount of renewed discussion in some of these areas,” Aitken said.

“Not all of this is new. Adherence is not new,” he added. What is new, however, is the ability to use data and predictive modeling to find which patients best respond to what type of medication adherence reminders, he said. Some need a visit from a nurse, which is more costly than using a text or a tweet. Predictive modeling can help an organization use resources wisely to get the most adherance from patients.

[See also: 5 ways telemedicine is driving down healthcare costs.]

Calling responsible medicine use an “urgent imperative” for the global health system, the IMS Institute study found that medicine policy is often isolated from other healthcare initiatives in the intensifying efforts to contain costs. Such an approach does not consider the significant impact that improved medicine use can have on overall health system spending.

The study also focuses on two key factors critical to driving improvement across the six levers: multi-stakeholder engagement, and the power of information.

The study can be found here online.