Med adherence could save $8.3B in healthcare costs

Faithful adherence to prescribed medication regimens by the nation's diabetics could save an estimated $8.3 billion in annual healthcare costs, according to a study published in the August Health Affairs.

The study found that better adherence to drug regimens reduced the odds of hospitalizations and emergency department visits by 13 percent. When patients didn't adhere to their medications, it increased the odds of hospitalization by 15 percent. Researchers suggested total adherence could save $3.93 billion in Medicare costs.

The researchers projected that better drug adherence could avert 699,000 emergency visits and 341,000 hospitalizations each year, for a savings of $4.7 billion. Additionally, if no patients stopped taking their medication--as one in four did--another $3.6 billion could be saved, for a total of $8.3 billion, according to the study abstract.

Lower copayments for certain medications could prompt more diabetics to take their medications regularly. Researchers also suggested feedback about adherence through electronic health records could make a difference.

"Based on our estimates … a typical accountable care organization with 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries might be able to save up to $1.1 million annually in emergency department and hospital costs by improving adherence among its patients with diabetes," the researchers concluded.

Leveraging technology to improve patient adherence with drug regimens is becoming increasingly popular.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of implantable microchips that confirm when medications have been ingested. The chips react with digestive juices and send a signal to a skin patch, which is then relayed to a smartphone and a doctor's office. The chip later dissolves.

Meanwhile, Geisinger Health System and drug maker Merck announced in June they are developing a cloud-based application to improve medication adherence, designing it to integrate with any EHR system.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- see the Geisinger-Merck announcement