medication reminders


MORS and SMORS — more than a sweet treat

I’m going out on a limb here and betting many of you have not heard of MORS and SMORS. For your information, they may be one of the best solutions around to improve medication adherence, compliance and patient safety.

Medication Organizer Reminder Systems MORS and Secure Medication Organizer Reminder Systems SMORS are a group of products designed to organize patient medications and provide audible and/or visual alerts to remind patients to take their medication on time, every time.

My interest in MORS and SMORS, (which always reminds me of a good time around a campfire), began nearly three years agosmores 3 when I first started researching medication adherence and compliance.

Although the causes and proposed solutions to the medication adherence/compliance problem vary widely and are often debated, it seems one thing can be agreed upon by all… it is a very costly healthcare problem in the U.S. today. The cost of non-adherence was estimated to be $290 billion annually by the New England Healthcare Institute NEHI in 2009. It’s now estimated by some to be in the neighborhood of $330 billion or more annually.

When you add in the additional costs of adverse drug reactions, medication misuse, lack of control of diseases like hypertension, diabetes, etc., additional physician, hospital and emergency department visits, this figure approaches nearly a half trillion dollars annually.  And this does not even take into consideration the loss of life from inappropriate medication use estimated to be over 125,000 deaths annually.

MORS and SMORS can help patients improve their medication compliance which in turn will improve control of their particular disease and reduce healthcare costs in the long run.

Opening doors for pharmacists —

I recently presented information on April 17th, 2013, to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy on the topic of medication adherence and compliance, the costs associated with the problem and the patient safety issues that arise when patients don’t take medications as prescribed. Pharmacists need to understand and utilize the available technology, including MORS and SMORS, to improve patient outcomes and help reduce healthcare costs.

But at this time the Oregon BOP does not allow pharmacists to dispense, fill or set up medications for use in medication organizer reminder systems. Pharmacy rules for medication labeling and packaging currently prevent pharmacists from doing so as they are not compliant with Board rules and guidelines. Several other states, including neighboring Washington State, have moved forward and adopted rules to allow pharmacists to utilize this technology to improve patient care and safety.

The Board responded favorably to my request by proposing additions to the customized patient medication packaging rule (Oregon 855-041-1140) to provide a waiver for approved medication organizer reminders systems not meeting regular labeling and packaging guidelines. After the recent rulemaking hearing, the Board will now move forward and vote on the new rule and, hopefully, implement this change in Oregon pharmacy law at their August 2013 meeting.

Patient safety is the issue —

The proposed rule change is based on improving patient safety as well as improving medication adherence. Allowing pharmacists to be involved with filling or dispensing medications for use in medication organizer reminder systems will have a positive impact on medication adherence, compliance and medication safety. Do you see the opportunity for pharmacists here?

The real solution —

The impact of the proposed rule changes are not based solely on the use of medication organizer reminder systems. The real solution to the adherence dilemma is getting pharmacists involved with their patients.

A recent report published by the National Community Pharmacy Association NCPA identified what I believe to be the biggest factor for combating the medication adherence problem:

  • The biggest predictor of medication adherence was patients’ personal connection (or lack thereof) with a pharmacist or pharmacy staff. Patients of independent community pharmacies reported the highest level of personal connection (89 percent agreeing that pharmacist or staff “knows you pretty well”), followed by large chains (67 percent) and mail order (36 percent).

“This predicting factor was followed in order of importance by: affordability of medications; continuity in health care usage; how important patients feel it is to take their medication as prescribed; how well informed they feel about their health; and medication side effects.”

Enter here… The Door is OPEN —

The door is now open for pharmacists to seize this opportunity to get involved with medication organizer reminder systems and assist their patients who may be struggling with medication adherence problems.

It’s the perfect addition to patient counseling or medication therapy management MTM to improve patient medication compliance and patient safety.

If your state Board of Pharmacy rules need to be changed for you to get involved, you need to BE THE CHANGE. Address the topic with your state Board and urge them to move the profession of pharmacy forward.

Feel free to contact me for assistance and advice on how to move forward with this in your state.

Remember the Reminders… the medication reminders, that is.

Considering the scope of the medication adherence and compliance problem in the U.S. it just makes good sense to use any means possible to help patients improve their compliance with prescription drug therapy. If you’ve read any of my recent blog posts or follow healthcare news at all you’re well aware of the extentstring-around-finger of the problem, the cost of which is now reported to be over $300 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

I’m now seeing other effects of non-compliance with information suggesting the medication compliance problem may be putting the public at even greater risk. There is evidence showing over 50% of drug clinical trial patients do not report missed doses to the clinical trial study team. This could result in problems experienced later by the public after the FDA has approved the sale of new drug products in the market place.

Finding the right fit –

So how do medication reminders fit into the scheme of things and what reminder tools or devices should be used?

There are many medication reminder tools and devices available ranging from simple pill boxes or organizers and reminder caps on pill bottles to smart phone apps and automated pill dispensers. The choice of medication reminder tools or devices would also depend on the needs of the patient with special considerations given for high risk patients who may be living in environments with little or no supervision by family or outside healthcare services.

Direct or indirect patient contact through text messages, email or telephonic messages will also influence patient compliance. But even with the plethora of medication reminder devices and techniques available we cannot discount the influence of direct patient education and encouragement from healthcare professionals.

Patient education coupled with the right reminder tools or device will produce the greatest dividends towards combating the medication adherence and compliance problem that exists today.

Improving patient outcomes – saving healthcare dollars –

Here are a few examples where medication compliance reminder tools or devices can be easily inserted into the healthcare delivery process:

  • reminder devices provided through hospital discharge planning and follow up of high risk patients to prevent re-admissions
  • reminder devices provided during counseling sessions by pharmacists, home health or home care agencies
  • reminder devices provided before leaving the physician’s office with a new prescription for maintenance medications
  • reminder devices provided in conjuction with special clinical monitoring including anti-coagulation clinic therapy or other similar outpatient services
  • reminder devices provided by pharmaceutical companies marketing products and drug therapies to improve product recognition, acceptance and compliance
  • reminder devices provided as an adjunct to monitoring patients participating in clinical trials
  • reminder devices provided by insurance, 3rd party payers or self insured businesses to reduce expenses related to medication non-compliance in patients taking maintenance medications
  • reminder devices provided to residents of independent living or retirement communities

A liberal dose of medication reminders –

For the most part we can’t control a patient’s healthcare decisions. We can’t make people take their medications if they’ve decided not to. We can, however, help steer them in the right direction with proper education and encouragement. Adding a liberal dose of medication reminder devices to the patient’s drug therapy regimen along with patient education has the greatest chance of improving compliance with prescription medication therapy.

Put on your thinking caps –

I challenge you to think of other ways to incorporate medication reminder devices into the healthcare delivery process. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas and encourage you to comment or contact me directly via email at dave.walker@medtime-compliance.com

For the most part people go to their physician or healthcare provider to get help or treatment for a medical problem. But some people are so stubborn they’ll wait until the last minute, suffering with an ache, pain or other uncontrolled symptom of disease or condition until they have no other recourse but make an appointment to see their doctor. It’s often only when they get to this virtual point of no return are they willing to give in, seek advice and visit their ‘healer’ of choice.

Similarly, due to stubborness, the desire to follow doctor’s orders seems to disappear for many patients as soon as the prescribed treatment or therapy relieves the pain or symptoms they were suffering from. This happens all too often with antibiotic therapy where patients stop taking their medication when symptoms subside, terminating the therapy before the full course of treatment has ended. It’s also evident when a patient is prescribed a maintenance medication to control a disease or chronic condition such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, COPD or diabetes, often leading to uncontrolled symptoms, progression of disease state or even death.

What can we do to increase patient adherence and compliance with their prescribed medication regimen?

Lack of medication adherence… America’s other drug problem-

MedTime cartoon

medication compliance cards, not clubs…

Adherence and compliance to medication therapy or prescription drug regimen seems to be an ever looming problem, adding over $300 billion in healthcare expense annually in the U.S. alone. Recent statistics posted by Express Scripts indicate 69% of non-adherence to drug therapy is behavioral in nature resulting from forgetfulness or procrastination. So what’s it going to take to get people to take their medications?

No Wooden Clubs or 2 by 4’s –

Pharmacists are continually frustrated with this problem. I’m sure physicians and other prescribers are as well. Because, for the most part, we can’t “make” a patient take their medication if they don’t want to. Even when we spend the extra time to educate patients about their disease state and prescribed medications we can’t compel anybody to be compliant if they’re unwilling to do so.

$331 billion is at stake-

Improving medication adherence and ensuring timely medication use are the greatest opportunites to cutting the nearly one-half trillion dollars of avoidable healthcare costs worldwide. Any measures taken to reduce this expense and advance the responsible use of medicines  will lead to improved health outcomes as well.

What we can do, and should do, is to continue to educate, offer encouragement and provide medication reminder devices and tools to help patients who need to improve their medication compliance.

There are many tools available ranging from simple pill boxes and reminder caps on pill bottles to smart phone apps and automated pill dispensers. Some of the most unique, innovative and easy to use reminders devices are the medication compliance cards from Med Time Compliance. These devices can be designed for specific needs ranging from their iRemindHer once a day oral contraceptive compliance card and multiple daily dosing reminder cards to unique products designed for complex dosing regimens such as growth hormone injections or chemotherapy medication regimens with variable dosing schedules.

A simple thing-

As healthcare providers we should all adopt the slogan, “Remember the Reminders” to help improve medication adherence and compliance. Adding reminders to the patient education process will undoubtedly become one of the simplest, least expensive ways to improve medication adherence and compliance in the future.