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Patient Adherence: Drugs Don't Work If Patients Don't Take Them

“Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” That quote is attributed to former US Surgeon General C. Everett Coop, and gets to the heart of a painful truth in healthcare worldwide….many patients do not take the medications they need to successfully treat their conditions. A World Health Organization Report states that “Adherence to long-term therapy for chronic illnesses in developed countries averages 50%. In developing countries, the rates are even lower.” Various other studies approximate costs related hospital admissions due to lack of proper medication adherence is $100 billion per year.

There are numerous reasons patients don’t take their medications properly. For example, some find the cost of the medications prohibitive while others skip their pills out of a desire to avoid side effects and of course some are just plain forgetful. However, better education and automated reminders can help improve adherence. A recent study by the Montefiore Medical Center (in New York) showed that over a two-month period a text messaging system, sending automated, pre-scripted texts, increased self-reported patient adherence to medications by 12%, care plan goals by 7% and appointment attendance by 40%.



Another recent study of more than 30,000 patients that found that those with the least skills and confidence to actively engage in their own health care incurred costs that averaged 8% to 21% higher than patients with the highest levels of activation.

The Montefiore pilot also sought to test the effect that communications technology would have on patient activation. Specifically, the study tracked three key factors behind how well an individual manages their own health: Knowledge, motivation and ability. The study found that the patients in the experiment group were “21 percent more motivated, 26 percent more confident, and 22 percent more knowledgeable about the lifestyle changes recommended for their health, than the patients in the control group, who received more traditional care management.”


FICO brings a wealth of experience with other highly regulated industries to this area, our patient communication solutions bring intelligent, automated, two-way communications (voice, text, mobile apps) to healthcare organizations looking to improve outcomes and drive down costs.

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