Medication adherence is a major concern in the United States, especially in the management of chronic diseases. Medication synchronization is a valuable strategy that can help improve medication adherence. In fact, linking medication refills to the same date can significantly simplify medication management, which ultimately leads to improved medication adherence.
The impact of limited medication adherence on the U.S. healthcare system is staggering. According to a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, limited medication adherence can cost the US health system more than $300 billion annually, leading to nearly 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations. This alarming statistics highlights the importance of finding solutions to improve medication adherence.
One of the major causes of poor medication adherence is the cost of medication, which often leads to patients choosing between their treatment and essential lifestyle needs like rent or groceries. Additionally, patients may have difficulty keeping track of multiple therapies, particularly those with complex chronic illnesses or comorbidities.
The medical industry has been working tirelessly to address poor medication adherence and medication synchronization has emerged as a viable solution. Medication synchronization is a medication management strategy that aligns the refill dates for two or more prescriptions. When a patient receives multiple prescriptions, it is unlikely that the refill dates will all fall on the same day. This could result from multiple clinicians prescribing medications or from a single clinician prescribing medications on separate occasions.
Additionally, misalignment of prescription refill dates may stem from prescriptions with different dosages, i.e. a 30-day versus 14-day dose.
Misaligned refill dates can be confusing for patients as they must visit the pharmacy multiple times per month and remember which medication to refill and when. However, medication synchronization overcomes this problem by only requiring the patient to visit the pharmacy once per month. Pharmacists and prescribers work together to create new dosages or to offer a one-time, limited prescription to coordinate all refills on the same day.
Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests that medication synchronization can improve medication adherence. Since medication nonadherence can be attributed to patient behavior, synchronization can simplify pill management and make it easier for patients to keep track of their pills.
Moreover, synchronization can help reveal medication adherence problems that are not related to medication management. For instance, medication synchronization revealed that one patient had an exceptionally high bill, resulting from taking three different medications that cost almost $1,000 monthly. After making a few adjustments, the pharmacist was able to lower the patient's bill to $100 per month.
In a 2019 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a literature review about medication synchronization plans and found that it can boost adherence as much as 3%. Other studies went further to say that medication synchronization can improve adherence and subsequently improve health outcomes, as evidenced by a drop in hospitalization and emergency department utilization. A January 2018 Health Affairs study also found that medication synchronization increased medication adherence rates by 9%.
Although medication synchronization may sound like a simple fix to medication management, it does come with its hurdles. For instance, synchronizing multiple prescriptions that are currently on various schedules presents a logistical issue for pharmacists and prescribers. Additionally, aligning prescription refill dates may pose a significant cost that a patient may have to pay all at once. Payment plans and prorated costs could help some patients overcome these barriers.
In conclusion, medication synchronization is an important strategy that can help improve medication adherence. By linking medication refills to the same date, medication management is simplified, and patients find it easier to keep track of their pills. It is important for healthcare providers to understand the mechanisms available to maintain adherence in chronic disease management plans. With medication synchronization and next steps like dose packaging, patients can take control of their health and stay on top of their medications.