Health IT Offers New Tools To Boost Patients' Medication Compliance

Health IT tools give health care providers new ways to monitor medication adherence, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Drug Adherence in the U.S.

As many as half of U.S. residents do not adhere to prescription drug regimens, according to the Journal.

Studies have shown that patients who adhere to their medication regimens have better health outcomes and require less care.

Patients who do not take their medications as directed cost the U.S. health care system about $290 billion in preventable medical spending annually, according to research by the New England Healthcare Institute. Similarly, a January Health Affairs study found that while improved medication adherence for four chronic diseases contributes to higher spending on drugs, it also generates significant savings because patients are less likely to be hospitalized and seek emergency department care.

Benefits of EHRs, E-Prescribing Systems

Recent studies have shown that health IT -- such as electronic health records, electronic prescribing systems and online pharmacies -- can boost medication compliance.

For example, a study by Kaiser Permanente Colorado found that patients who participate in integrated health care systems that use EHRs and e-prescribing technology obtain new medications more often than patients in non-integrated systems.

The study found that in Kaiser's integrated system, 7% of patients with newly ordered medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol did not pick up their prescriptions. The study pointed to previous research that found that as many as 22% of patients not in integrated systems fail to get new prescriptions (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 10/10).

The study recommended that health care providers link prescription orders with dispensed medications to identify patients who do not pick up or refill their prescriptions.

In addition, a Kaiser Northern California study found that patients who have access to online pharmacies and receive drugs via mail order have better control of their medical condition than patients who pick up drugs at a local pharmacy (Landro, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 10/11).

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