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Medication synchronization, or “med sync,” is a high-value strategy for improving member experience, but it needs to be paired with technologies in the home to help individuals proactively manage adherence.
Medication adherence is more than just a daily challenge for people with complex, high-risk health problems. It’s an hour-by-hour battle to conquer the complexity of taking multiple medications correctly morning, noon, night—and sometimes in between.
Research indicates that 22 percent of people in the United States take three or more prescriptions per month. Based on the 2013 estimate of 316 million in our population, that means 69 million Americans take three or more prescriptions per month, which typically come due on different days throughout the month. This requires multiple trips to the pharmacy.
It’s difficult to maintain this regular cadence without gaps or mistakes, especially when living with functional limitations, dementia or other mental wellness conditions. Common social determinants of health (SDOH) can also make it difficult for members to access and take medications appropriately.
Fortunately, there are solutions available for the millions of Americans who struggle to stay on track with their complicated prescription drug routines. It all starts with med sync.
Med sync is achieved when all of a member’s prescriptions are anchored to a single pick-up date and access method, whether that’s only one trip to the pharmacy, or delivery straight to their home. Each month, pharmacists review the member’s drug list to double check for incorrect dosing instructions, duplicated medications and potential interactions that could lead to adverse events.
On its own, med sync can bring immediate improvements to adherence rates and member experience. However, it often functions best when paired with a wrap-around community of care that incorporates proactive analytics, person-centered relationship building, and the right home-based technology and medication delivery systems to help members manage medications on an ongoing basis.
Leveraging Med Sync to Improve Member Experience
Only half of chronic disease patients regularly take their medications as prescribed. The other half significantly increase their risk of excess healthcare utilization, poor quality of life, frustration with health plans and providers, and preventable early mortality.
There are many reasons why members become nonadherent. Some are related to SDOH issues such as inaccessible pharmacies, unaffordable medications or low health literacy.
Others are systemic in nature. In general, the healthcare environment is still not fully aligned around patients, forcing individuals and their caregivers to shoulder many of the burdens of medication management. Members may have prescriptions from several different doctors sent to several different pharmacies, each of which is ready to pick up on a different day of the month. When their fill schedule is staggered, members (or their caregivers) have to make multiple trips to their pharmacies throughout the month. In addition, they are often inundated with a cacophony of refill or pickup reminders for each of their medications, creating confusion and even annoyance.
The challenges only intensify when a member brings their prescriptions home. Aside from the small print on the label, pill vials tend to be indistinguishable from one another, making it difficult for all but the exceptionally organized to keep them straight. It’s incredibly easy to accidentally miss a dose, double up on a medication, or run out of a prescription without ordering a refill, especially when eight or more medications are in play.
All these factors quickly add up to poor member experience, which is reflected in feedback to the health plan, provider or pharmacy, and may lead to lackluster scores on important industry metrics, such as the CAHPS® (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey and Medicare Advantage (MA) Star Ratings.
Med sync solves many of these problems by coordinating and simplifying the medication management experience. When combined with digital tools and medication delivery systems within the home, an ecosystem of expert pharmacy resources available whenever members need them, the value of med sync soars to the next level.
Bringing Member-Friendly Medication Management Technology into the Home
Health IT entrepreneurs have tried to address the home-based medication management issue in a variety of ways. Many strategies are centered around an automatic pill dispenser that times out doses. The principle behind these devices is sound, and they function at their maximum efficiency when combined with a few extra features.
For example, if the machine is not paired with pharmacist-driven med sync, the member still faces the problem of collecting all their prescriptions and filling up their device several times a month. This can become cumbersome in polypharmacy members especially creating an adjacent problem the device is meant to ultimately solve. Pharmacist support also offers the benefit of regular medication reviews to ensure safety and proper use.
Many of these machines come with apps to let caregivers view the member’s medication schedule. But they don’t typically include connections with trained pharmacists and the patient’s clinical care team to send alerts for missed doses or refill needs that encourage adherence and make med sync easier.
To ensure home-based medication management tools are worth the time and expense, they need to be more than just a digital version of a traditional plastic pill organizer. One solution that ticks all the boxes is the HERO automated pill dispenser.
The HERO device is cost-effective, available for direct purchase, and may even be covered by Medicare or Health Savings Account (HSA)/Flexible Spending Account (FSA) credit. The machine is designed with its users in mind, featuring a simple, intuitive physical interface, as well as an app that connects members and caregivers with important data to encourage adherence, such as reminders for upcoming doses and alerts after missing a pill. Users can fill the machine with up to 10 different medications. For high-risk members with multiple chronic conditions and multiple prescriptions, this is a huge advantage to the issues of medication nonadherence.
As part of HERO’s strategic partnership with AdhereHealth, users get access to med sync services with their subscription. AdhereHealth pharmacists check in with users each month to review any changes and address concerns. AdhereRxTM (AdhereHealth’s digital pharmacy) fills all members’ prescriptions on one synced anchor date, and the pills are delivered conveniently to their home, without the need to travel.
Dispensing devices like HERO, alongside real-time visibility for caregivers and care teams, are changing the way complex, high-risk individuals maintain their health at home by improving experiences and health outcomes and reducing the risk of adverse health events.
Developing a Holistic Support System for High-Risk Individuals
To promote positive outcomes and improve healthcare experience, vulnerable individuals simply need more support than they are currently getting. HERO + AdhereHealth is just one part of a comprehensive, data-driven roadmap to better medication management for high-risk members.