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Guest Columnist Author: Robert Oscar, R.Ph., president and CEO, RxEOB Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Smartphones: An Innovative Way to Increase Patient Drug Adherence

By Robert Oscar, R.Ph., president and CEO, RxEOB
Sep 22, 2014 - 3:48:45 PM

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( - Studies show that improved medication adherence-getting people to take medicine prescribed for them-can greatly reduce total healthcare use and costs as a result of reductions in hospitalization and emergency department use. Given that approximately 65 percent of all Americans owned a smartphone in 2013,[1] and experts predict that healthcare and medical app downloads will reach 142 million by 2016, mHealth -- the use of mobile technology devices and smartphones for healthcare purposes - has emerged as one of the most promising ways to increase patient drug adherence.[2]

Healthcare apps offer patients easy access to essential pharmacy benefit-related information, including:

  • Pharmacy and medical benefit summaries and claims history
  • Drug formularies and drug prior authorization status
  • Drug prices of nearby pharmacies and expected out-of-pocket costs with generic and therapeutic alternatives
  • Reminders and alerts for prescription drug compliance

Currently, health-related apps are used primarily for information retrieval, with some mobile devices providing more one-on-one interaction. For example, RxManager, which is offered by Physician's Plus, provides personal drug utilization information for each patient, including specific money saving suggestions for better pharmacy benefit use. The app also offers patients a number of features, including:

  • Records immunizations and health screenings, and those recommended based on the individual's profile
  • Tracks health and wellness, including weight, HgA1c, headache log, blood pressure, cholesterol, and more (the date and time selector supports multiple tracker measurements per day)
  • Creates a list of questions to ask the doctor

The most effective Web-based platforms:

  • Gather, integrate and access drug claim histories and formulary data
  • Deliver personal notifications to patients regarding drugs that require prior authorization
  • Contain personalized messaging to increase the effectiveness of consumer engagement communications
  • Include reporting applications that measure changes in pharmacy utilization and prescription drug adherence for chronically ill patient populations

Ultimately, the widespread use of mHealth will save time and money across the healthcare delivery system, simplify pharmacy understanding and utilization, and enhance the effectiveness of medication therapy management.

More Hospitals Using mHealth Technology

With apps designed to support patient care and enable clinicians, pharmacists and hospital staff to encourage adherence to medications for chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, hospitals can cut costs and work collaboratively with individuals who are at risk for adverse drug events that lead to hospital readmissions.

For example, Geisinger Health Plan developed its Geisinger Monitoring Program, which uses remote monitoring technologies to increase interactions between caregivers and patients upon discharge, experienced a 44 percent reduction in hospital readmissions.[3]

With access to their medical and pharmacy claim data, patients are able to make better, more well-informed choices that can increase prescription drug adherence, reduce costs associated with emergency care, and improve the overall quality and satisfaction with healthcare. Apps can also serve as decision-support tools for healthcare providers, allowing them to quickly suggest additional prescription drug purchasing channels, such as mail order and retail discount options available through network pharmacies.

Finding the Best mHealth Options

The most effective mHealth solutions offer robust and flexible mobile technology apps that enable patients to easily interact with healthcare providers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBM). The mobile app suite should offer a completely configurable approach to placing mobile decision-support tools in the hands of patients: medication history and drug look-up, drug savings calculations and plan benefit options, personalized messages, biometric trackers and physician office visit preparation applications.

Automated personal mobile application services - combined with reporting applications that measure the appropriate use and effectiveness of healthcare - will inevitably increase satisfaction for all health and healthcare stakeholders by:

  • saving time and money across the delivery system
  • simplifying plan benefit design and utilization
  • enhancing the effectiveness of medication therapy management, as well as value-based drug benefit designs
  • integrating financial data from the plan for easy reference and point of care purchasing

Smartphone apps are an innovative way to improve adherence and patient behavior because they are constantly accessible, engage and educate patients, and provide a repository for patient- and medication-specific information. Medication-adherence apps can potentially store all of the user's medical information and provide a more streamlined way to keep patients informed about their disease and care. What's more, adherence apps can be downloaded for free, and benefit anyone taking prescription medications. 

[1] Fingas, Jon; Two-thirds of Americans now have smartphones; Engadget; 2014;; accessed July 22, 2014.

[2] Oscar, Robert; Smarter Pharmacy Benefits: How Mobile Technology Communications Improve Pharmacy Utilization and Cut Costs; Managed Care Outlook; April 15, 2013;; accessed July 22, 2014.

[3] Anderson, Chris; Remote monitoring helps Geisinger cut readmissions; Healthcare IT News; February 29, 2012;; accessed July 22, 2014.


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