Managing Prescriptions Controls Costs

A new report finds that the US healthcare system could save more than $200 billion a year if prescription medications were more prudently administered.

A new report finds that the US healthcare system could save more than $200 billion a year if prescription medications were more prudently administered. The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that ineffectively managed medication use led to 6 million hospitalizations, 4 million emergency room visits, and nearly 80 million visits to care providers per year. Reasons for poor medication use included not taking medications as directed, taking too many medications at once, delayed treatment, overuse of antibiotics, and underuse of generic medications.

“Better use of medications won't solve our healthcare spending crisis, but it can help. What would really save us money, and improve our health, is preventing disease with a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr Howard LeWine, of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. ”The biggest bang would come from beginning that in childhood and maintaining it throughout life, but starting at any time will help.”

Another recent study found that proper medication adherence in diabetes patients reduced the risk of hospitalization and emergency room visits. They also saw a reduction in treatment costs related to diabetes. The study, published in this month’s American Journal of Managed Care, noted that while better medication adherence can still result in higher total healthcare expenses, after 5 years of the onset of diabetes, the difference between adherence-related and total healthcare expenses were inclined to decease.

Study authors Shou-Hsia Cheng, PhD, Chi-Chen Chen, PhD, and Chin-Hsiao Tseng, MD, PhD add that there are several options to improve medication adherence.

"We suggest that non-financial barriers to medication adherence might also be important for improving medication adherence for patients with diabetes. Increasing the patients’ health literacy (such as their awareness of the importance of adherence), enhancing the continuity of care between physicians and patients, and the development of a pay-for-performance program to promote medication adherence are some strategies for healthcare policy makers to consider," the authors wrote.

Although poor medication use represents less than 8% of what Americans spend on health care each year, it is still important to consider ways of reducing unnecessary spending.

We suggest that non-financial barriers to medication adherence might also be important for improving medication adherence for patients with diabetes. Increasing the patients’ health literacy (such as their awareness of the importance of adherence), enhancing the continuity of care between physicians and patients, and the development of a pay-for-performance program to promote medication adherence are some strategies for healthcare policy makers to consider. - See more at: http://www.ajmc.com/publications/issue/2013/2013-1-vol19-n8/does-medication-adherence-lead-to-lower-healthcare-expenses-for-patients-with-diabetes/4#sthash.iJBCzyRD.dpuf

Around the Web

Better use of medicines could save billions of dollars [Chicago Tribune]

Does Medication Adherence Lead to Lower Healthcare Expenses for Patients With Diabetes? [AJMC]