Can Data Help People Stay on Medication?

CVS Health’s Dr. William Shrank, Senior Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer, Provider Innovation and Analytics, offers his perspective on the benefits of using data to inform medication adherence improvement strategies.

It’s well documented that patients who take their medications as prescribed have better health outcomes than those who don’t. Despite this, countless Americans don’t stick with their treatment regimens. The result? Thousands of preventable deaths and billions in unnecessary health care costs.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. Taking medication is a highly personal experience that each patient approaches differently. The challenge is to pinpoint those patients who are more likely to skip their medications, and take steps to guide them toward their path to better health.

At CVS Health, we use data to help shape our patient care and medication adherence strategies, and our focus is helping patients who are at risk for non-adherence get and stay on track before it’s too late.

A recent study by the CVS Health Research Institute and our research partners analyzed different methods for predicting medication adherence and found that patients’ refill patterns in the early months of taking medication are highly predictive of future medication compliance. This research helped inform the development of an important new tool we call the Predictive Adherence Index (PAI). The PAI uses patterns of patients’ medication use habits to predict their future adherence, and allows for more precise targeting of interventions to help patients adhere to their medications.

The CVS Health Research Institute has also developed the Vulnerable Patient Index (VPI), which analyzes data from our pharmacy claims processing system to identify patients who are likely to be costly to the health care system because of medication non-compliance. In addition, the VPI reviews the patient’s medical condition(s), the complexity of his or her medication regimen as well as the number and type of drug-drug interactions.

The VPI assigns a score to indicate a patient’s risk for health complications and associated higher costs. Based on the VPI score, the system recommends the most effective medication safety, adherence and condition-specific interventions for each individual, including:

  • Comprehensive medication review with a pharmacist on the telephone
  • Periodic “check-in” calls from a pharmacist
  • Alternative packaging options to make dosing easier
  • In-person counseling sessions at the retail pharmacy

Over time, these adherence tools will produce additional data that we can use to fine-tune our adherence and safety offerings. In addition, mobile technology, including our CVS Pharmacy smartphone app, will also provide relevant data while helping us reach out to customers with tips and alerts. In fact, 15 million customers already receive text alerts when it’s time to refill their prescriptions.

These efforts are just the beginning. Medication non-adherence is a complex problem that won’t be solved overnight. The U.S. health care system is working diligently to find the most effective solutions, and CVS Health aims to be at the forefront of that work. Armed with cutting edge research, we’re developing additional programs that can save money and improve health outcomes for those most in need of our help.