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Medication synchronization is a strategic, innovative development in the healthcare technology space to significantly improve medication adherence for complex members while reducing avoidable spending for the healthcare system.
For those living with one or more chronic conditions, managing medications can be a complicated and time-consuming activity. These members are more likely to juggle multiple prescriptions—typically eight or more for complex, high-risk patients—that are often filled at different times of the month and/or at multiple pharmacies.
This maze of medications puts a significant burden on members and their caregivers, and dramatically increases the risk of making mistakes with dosing, timing and access to critical therapies. With only half of chronic disease patients able to maintain adherence under these circumstances, it’s time to make a change.
Medication synchronization, often shortened to “med sync,” can have a profound effect on a member’s ability to stay on track with their self-management.
Med sync involves anchoring all of a member’s prescriptions to a single pick-up date and access method, requiring one monthly trip to the pharmacy or a single monthly home delivery for added convenience. It takes coordination with pharmacists and prescribing physicians to align all prescription fill dates to one anchor date. Short fills (partial fills of a prescription) are often used to tide a patient over until it’s time for a full refill. Since prescriptions range from 30- to 90-day fills, med sync can take a few months before all medications are synced to the same fill date.
As prescription routines tend to change over time, which is common with high-risk individuals, one critical element of med sync is its ongoing presence. This means that as patients receive new medications or others are dropped, they’ll continue to stay on track with their recommended treatments.
Health plans and clinicians can also leverage the opportunity to double-check dosing instructions, duplicate prescriptions and potential drug interactions to avoid medication-related adverse events. Preventing these events can help improve health outcomes and reduce overall healthcare costs by keeping patients healthy and avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits.
With a little commitment and intention, healthcare stakeholders can work together to offer medication synchronization to high-risk members so everyone can reap the clinical and financial benefits of a simplified approach to medication management.
Why Med Sync is so Important for Resolving Medication Adherence Issues
Medication nonadherence is a staggering problem leading to more than 125,000 preventable deaths each year and $500 billion in avoidable costs. While there are many reasons a person might become nonadherent, reliable access to medications is a key piece of the puzzle.
Multiple trips to the pharmacy can be difficult for high-risk individuals with many medications and poor overall health status, especially when social determinants of health (SDOH) come into play. One recent study found that women with breast cancer and other health conditions averaged 10 unique prescriptions in one year but were forced to make an average of 26 pharmacy visits during that time. That is not a tenable situation for many people and can quickly lead to breakdowns in continuous access to their therapies. As a result, members may split pills, skip doses or stop taking their prescriptions entirely, leading them to slip below the 80-percent medication access threshold that indicates adherence.
Med sync eliminates this problem at the source. Patients collect all their prescriptions and get their regimens reviewed by a pharmacist in one fell swoop. This allows patients and their caregivers to plan out and organize their medication routines for the next 30 or 90 days, reducing the likelihood of forgetting doses, running out of medications or losing track of which prescriptions need to be filled and when.
The results can be clear and immediate. According to the AphA Foundation, med sync is associated with a more than 50-percent improvement in medication adherence, including a 90- percent improvement in adherence for a medication after its first fill.
A whopping 98 percent of consumers said med sync was more convenient, while 80 percent reported they were more likely to take their medications after discussing their needs with a pharmacist during the process. One hundred percent were likely to recommend med sync to their family and friends.
How to Integrate Med Sync into the Care Continuum
Deploying a med sync initiative requires a blend of technology and person-centered relationship building.
First, health plans should partner with a digital pharmacy with advanced technology that can identify members who would benefit most from med sync services. Using analytics tools, plans and clinicians can proactively target individuals with high-risk health statuses, those with a high number of maintenance medications, and those with known socioeconomic stressors that might prevent regular access to medications.
Once an impacted member is defined, digital pharmacy teams can connect by phone to the member remotely to offer medication synchronization services and provide education, set a monthly appointment for pharmacist review and medication collection, and give the member the option of pick-up at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy or through a private courier that delivers the medications directly to their doorstep.
Establishing a strong relationship with members makes it easier for digital pharmacist teams to promote education, uncover socioeconomic barriers, and motivate individuals to stay on top of self-management.
Health plans can further increase the odds of member success by augmenting digital pharmacy-driven med sync with home-based technology, such as connected pill dispensers, to keep individuals on track with their health. Home-based medication management systems like pill dispensers can provide the right medications at the right times, monitor pill count to automatically flag missed doses, alert pharmacists to refill needs via smartphone apps, and give providers real-time insight into each individual’s adherence at home.
These technologies close the loop on medication adherence, maximizing the value of medication synchronization and ensuring that patients don’t fall through the gaps. This is especially important during critical times, such as a transition of care.
Creating Better Experiences and More Savings with Streamlined Medication Management
Medication synchronization can improve adherence for members, reducing the chances of a negative health event related to medication management. It can also bring benefits to health plans and providers in the form of reduced costs, better performance on quality measurement systems, and improved member experiences.
For example, patient experience, medication adherence and medication-related quality measures account for 80.5 percent of the total Star Ratings scoring system for Medicare Advantage plans. Med sync is an easy and accessible way to boost performance in all three domains.
Plans can also expect reductions in overall medical spending when members are more adherent to their prescriptions. Higher adherence rates are associated with fewer hospitalizations and lower overall service utilization.
A recent study found that improving adherence for commercially insured people with high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes produced savings of between $2,000 and $5,300 per member per year, with more complex members accounting for exponentially greater savings than members with fewer prescriptions.
Integrating a digital pharmacy that can provide medication synchronization into the care management plan can have significant positive impacts across the board, from members and caregivers to health plans and providers.
Compliance packaging, such as AdherePack™ by AdhereRx™, is a value-added service that further supports members in medication adherence—and is even more impactful when combined with med sync. Members receive “blister” or dosage strips that sort their medications by dose date and time, making it easy and convenient to take pills as recommended. This service is even more streamlined when it features synchronized refills and home delivery.
Smart pill dispensers, like the HERO solution, are another resource to enhance the benefits of a digital pharmacy. These countertop machines make medication management hassle-free by automatically sorting and dispensing medications for the patient in accordance with their unique dosing schedule. In other words, a patient’s pills are dispensed by the machine at the time they need to take them, removing the need to keep track on their own. Smart pill dispensers equipped with a companion smartphone app can send alerts to patients, providers and/or care givers when a medication is missed or ready for a refill, helping improve medication adherence.
With the right combination of technology, process and people-focused care, health plans and care teams can successfully collaborate to improve medication adherence, avoid unnecessary spending and offer better experiences to members and their loved ones.