Medication non-adherence, disability contribute to Medicare ED visits

Disabled Medicare patients who have trouble affording their medication are more likely to make a trip to the emergency room at least once in a year, according to new research published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Researchers used self-reported, cost-related, non-adherence to prescription medication and emergency department utilization data to evaluate the relationship between the two. Of 7,177 Medicare beneficiaries, 7.5 percent of respondents reported mild cost-related medication nonadherence, and 8.2 percent reported a more severe kind. Disabled Medicare beneficiaries with severe cost-related medication nonadherence were most likely to have at least one ED visit.

"Poverty and disability increase the risk that patients don't take their medicine because of the cost, which can lead to avoidable hospitalizations," said lead study author Janice Blanchard, M.D., Ph.D., of the department of emergency medicine at George Washington University, reported. "As with many other social problems, the emergency department is where these patients end up. It also has the potential to help these patients get their medications affordably so they stay out of the hospital."

The study noted that high rates of non-adherence can cost up to $100 billion a year in hospitalizations that could have been avoided.

Studies have shown before that a greater volume of Medicare patients in the ED puts a strain on the departments, which impacts the cost of providing treatment. In early May, an American Hospital Association study concluded that the number of ED visits per 1,000 fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries rose almost 12 percent between 2006 and 2010, and severity of illness rose by nine percent.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- read the article at

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