Interventions to keep chronic illness patients on their meds could save billions

Interventions to keep patients with chronic disease medication adherent leads to improved health outcomes and lower medical spending, according to a new study from the CVS Health Research Institute.

The study, published Monday in The American Journal of Managed Care, also found there is even more opportunity to lower medical spending if medication adherence resources focus on patients with three or more chronic comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

In fact, researchers said a preliminary analysis shows that payers could save approximately $38 million to $63 million per 100,000 members by focusing resources on these specific patient populations.

"There is extensive evidence supporting the relationship between better adherence, improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs, but efforts to improve medication adherence, while effective, can be costly," Troyen A. Brennan, MD, CMO of CVS Health, said in a statement. "We are now trying to better understand how to maximize healthcare resources to have the greatest impact on adherence and provide the maximum benefit for payers and patients. This research indicates that targeting adherence interventions to patients based upon their adherence history and comorbidities would result in greater cost-savings and a better use of health care resources."

For the study, researchers reviewed de-identified medical and pharmacy claims data of more than 1.2 million patients with at least one of three chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, over a two-year period.

Researchers found the best strategy for cutting costs involved focusing on patients who are adherent and keep them adherent. They cited the example of a patient with hypertension who was initially adherent, but became non-adherent, and spent an additional $2,663 on medical care.

According to the study, the number of comorbid conditions directly influenced the magnitude of lower medical costs when adherence behavior improved. Researchers said patients with three or more chronic conditions had up to seven times greater savings than patients with one or two conditions.

In conclusion, researchers encouraged clinicians and policy makers determining how to cost-effectively deploy adherence promotion programs to consider these findings in setting population health management priorities.


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