Medication Adherence During Care Transitions Getting Closer Look

Monday, February 25th, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

The cost of medication non-adherence is great: in 2009, the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) blamed it for $290 billion in ‘otherwise avoidable medical spending’ in the United States alone each year.

One area researchers are looking at more closely than ever is care transitions, as we report in this issue. Research shows that patients transitioning from one care facility to another are driving up related healthcare costs because of the gaps and resulting errors that can occur. This is an important shift in perspective, given that researchers have long thought that complex patients with multiple conditions/medications are primary causes for non-compliance.

We also explore pharmacists’ role in medication adherence in a new chart of the week. It illustrates the top five areas pharmacists are being reimbursed for their efforts in this area. Compiled from the Healthcare Intelligence Network’s own research, the findings reveal that while patient education numbers among the top five actions incented, the majority of pharmacists are not reimbursed for their efforts in this area.

The healthcare costs of tobacco-related diseases rivals medication adherence; every year, an estimated 443,000 people in the United States die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million people suffer from a serious smoking-related illness. Annually, costs associated with smoking-related illness account for billions in medical expenses and lost productivity, and 5.1 million years of potential life lost in the United States, the CDC reports.

California has been proactive in reforming smokers and disparaging tobacco companies; according to a report from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), a decades-long campaign in that state cost $2.4 billion, but reduced healthcare costs by $134 billion, and reduced the sales of cigarette packs by 6.8 billion, amounting to a loss of $28.5 billion in sales to cigarette companies.

We also address the high cost of hospital readmissions; according to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), one in eight Medicare patients was readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being released after surgery in 2010, while one in six Medicare patients admitted to hospitals for non-surgical reasons were readmitted within 30 days. Both rates were unchanged from 2008.

The report, “The Revolving Door: A Report on U.S. Hospital Readmissions,” was based on new data that includes readmission rates for states, hospital referral regions, and more than 3,000 hospitals from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, largely funded by RWJF. It finds that readmission rates vary markedly across regions and hospitals.

And finally, a new tool empowering Medicare beneficiaries and hopefully reduce healthcare costs is now accessible from UnitedHealthcare and Novu. An online portal enables patients to create their own personalized wellness programs, by registering and completing a confidential holistic health evaluation that helps them measure their fitness, nutrition and overall life balance. Based on their responses, a tailored health and wellness program is recommended that features customized coaching, nutrition and fitness goals that can be achieved in specific, manageable steps.

Have any of your mHealth tools helped to reduce healthcare costs? Studies are showing that mHealth technologies could save from $1.96 billion to $5.83 billion in healthcare costs by the year 2014. Describe how your organization uses mHealth technologies in our online survey by March 5, 2013 and you’ll receive a free executive summary of survey results once it is compiled — via e-mail or an mHealth-powered text message. Your completed survey also enters you into a drawing for a $25 Itunes gift card.

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