Taking Steps To Medical Adherence

by Mark Wechsler | Arrow Systems Integration

A friend sent me an article from the Gallup Business Journal because I’m the only “healthcare nerd” he knows. He thought I might find it interesting. He was right. The article dealt with the importance of medical adherence and its contributing factors.

So here is a little healthcare geekiness. According to Wikipedia, medical adherence describes the degree to which a patient correctly follows medical advice. Most commonly, it refers to medication or drug compliance, but it can also apply to other situations such as medical device use, self care, self-directed exercises, or therapy sessions. There is a lot of data indicating that patients who do not follow instructions regarding their meds, therapy, and treatment are much more likely to be readmitted to the hospital.

Medical adherence is really important to healthcare executives because of the federal Readmission Reduction Program. Simply put, hospitals with excess readmissions for heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia will be penalized up to 1% of their Medicare reimbursement revenue in FY2013. Hospitals will be penalized between $100K and $1M the first year. The penalties double in FY2014 and triple in FY2015.

Gallup found a direct correlation between healthcare provider actions and patient adherence to recommended post-discharge instructions, meds, and therapies. Those patients who ignored all recommendations were almost twice as likely to be readmitted as patients in full medical adherence.

Equally important, Gallup found that the medical staff could improve medical adherence and reduce readmission rates by taking specific steps to

  • Provide patients a full explanation of the medications
  • Conduct a patient discussions explaining their post-discharge care
  • Provide tools and material customized to each patient’s needs
  • Verbally review all treatment options each patient

The information provided by Gallup on factors driving medical adherence adds to the growing list of reasons healthcare providers are adopting proactive, automated communication services. Consider a number of use cases in which simple interactive voice recognition and proactive communication facilities can further support patient post-discharge behavior and increase medical adherence:

  • Medication reminders
  • Therapy and physician appointment reminders
  • Exercise reinforcement
  • Key health data check (e.g., weight, blood pressure)

For good reason hospital executives are finding medical adherence to be a source of stress. Failure to institute the necessary procedures to educate and inform the patient can place a significant portion of hospital revenue in jeopardy. Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps that can be put in place. Using basic telecommunication services we are helping healthcare providers to quickly and easily reinforce patient behavior during and after patient discharge. The result is greater medical adherence and bottom line improvement both financially and to the quality of care.

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