Personal Medication Adherence (PMA) is a $337 billion problem in the U.S. and it bogs down our healthcare system. Patients forget or confuse their medication resulting in readmissions to hospitals or revisits to doctors’ offices. Recent healthcare laws are emphasizing value-based healthcare and use of technology to improve quality of service. The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought various technologies to the forefront, which when applied to PMA devices can help resolve some of the issues we currently face.
Personal Medication Adherence (PMA) is a major discussion point in the healthcare industry, costing the U.S. around $337 billion annually (Source: The Express Scripts 2013 Drug Trend Report). The challenge is patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses, who do not take their medicine as prescribed end up being readmitted to hospitals, which increases challenges across the healthcare ecosystem. Common reasons for non-adherence include the difficulty of remembering when to take medications, and in some cases the need to take multiple medications, making the combination of drugs too cumbersome to manage.”
Why does PMA matter?
Ensuring people stay healthy and get the right care is important. However, making sure a medication regimen is adhered to is an integral part of care delivery and presents itself as an attractive business opportunity.
Pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers and pharmacies have a vested interest in patients adhering to their medication regimens. Hospitals can benefit with lower patient readmission, better medical plan ratings and lower insurance costs. For instance, under the Affordable Care Act, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid are required to impose penalties on hospitals with patient readmission rates that are higher than the national average. Improved PMA rates would help lower these charges. Stakeholders are addressing this problem in their own way, and one can foresee the need for a unified solution with multi-stakeholder participation in the near future. All the stakeholders should contribute toward the cost of providing PMA solutions to patients for the greater good of healthcare.
Recent regulatory changes and technology advancements are also driving the industry toward better systems for adherence. Service providers will be paid based on the value of the service provided and not the event, which means hospitals do not want patients to come back for the same illness (i.e. The Affordable Care Act). Service providers are incentivized to use technology to lower costs and reduce readmission rates (HITECH: Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act).
PMA and the IoT
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), technology is ripe for implementing PMA solutions. Major companies are recognizing the potential market and are introducing clever PMA devices, such as med-ic® Electronic Compliance Monitor (ECM©) [http://www.informationmediary.com/med-ic] and e-pill® automatic pill dispenser [http://www.epill.com/medtime.html], which will help patients track medicine usage and alert them when it is time to take medication. These devices help patients avoid taking the wrong medication and may also have automatic refill ordering capability. Advances in sensors, processors, wireless/efficient charging, wireless connectivity, cloud infrastructure and mobile apps provide a reliable and cost-effective way for product designers to implement PMA devices.
Technology is helping drive patient behavior toward improved adherence in various ways. For example:
- Sensing – Sensors allow for automatic detection of when medicine is taken or not taken.
- Wireless Connectivity – PMA devices can be connected to the cloud without any clumsy wires.
- Mobile Devices – Provide an easy gateway to the cloud and personal alert system.
- Mobile Applications – Intuitive mobile apps empower patients to manage their personal healthcare on mobile devices.
- Cloud Infrastructure – Cloud-based platforms allow physicians to communicate quickly, efficiently and securely with each other and their patients to provide improved understanding of their conditions and their often complex drug regimens.
Technological advances from the IoT are enabling a new class of PMA devices that are easy to use, affordable and keep the patient involved in monitoring their own health. This is truly a case where technology is helping to solve a real problem and the statistics will speak for themselves as we make further progress.