One-stop-shop for medication adherence

A consumer health advocate has launched a new website to provide information for patients and healthcare providers on support programs for medications.

freepatientsupport.com aims to be a one-stop-shop for the multitude of patient support programs provided by pharmaceutical companies and non-government organisations to help improve adherence with medication regimens.

Devised by healthcare communications specialist Michael Clayton, the idea is to provide one site for patients to search for their prescribed medications and what support programs are available, as well as providing information on the importance of taking their drugs as prescribed by their doctors.

Mr Clayton said he wanted the site to be similar to those such as carsales.com.au and iselect.com.au, which enable consumers to search for and compare cars for sale or health insurance providers on one site.

He is calling for pharmaceutical companies and NGOs to register their programs and will launch the site to consumers in February. He also plans to market the site to GPs and pharmacists to make it easier for them to direct patients to one site for medications information and support programs, rather than the plethora that is out there at the moment.

Mr Clayton said he was inspired by World Health Organisation figures that 50 per cent of patients do not take their medications as directed, and that every one dollar spent on a compliance program saved $10 in healthcare costs.

A 2003 WHO report also found that increasing the effectiveness of compliance programs had a huge effect on morbidity and mortality rates. Figures from the Department of Health and Ageing show that avoidable hospital admissions due to non-compliance are estimated to cost the Australian health system $660 million per year.

“I was absolutely amazed to find out that only half of patients take their medications as directed by their doctor; it's astonishing,” Mr Clayton said. “I also found out that 70 per cent of non-compliance is actually intentional – the patient is actively choosing not to take their medicine.

“They weigh up the risks and the benefits, are they convinced or not convinced, and they are self-managing themselves. Doctors are tearing their hair out because they have known about this for such a long time and yet it's really difficult for them to do something about it.”

He said it was obvious that education of the patient is important and is a role taken on by doctors and pharmacists, but the word still doesn't seem to be getting through.

“Who is convincing the health consumer to take their medicine as directed by their doctor?” he said. “The answer at the moment is, nobody successfully.”

Mr Clayton is currently speaking to a range of groups that provide patient support programs, including pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, NGOs such as the Heart Foundation and MS Australia as well as public health providers to encourage them to register their programs on the site.

The site will be funded by an annual registration fee for private companies and charges for advertising and sponsorship. NGOs will be able to register their programs for free.

“In the first instance it is a case of registering all of the programs that currently exist,” he said. “We also want to grow organically so people know that freepatientsupport.com exists. If they have a program they can then send a request to register.”

The site encourages consumers to search by the brand of drug they are on and their medical condition. “If there is a registered program, then they'll find out the benefits of the program, and they'll get a clinical rationale as to why they should be taking the medicine as prescribed and how the program will help them do that,” he said.

"If there isn't a program we have an off the shelf compliance program which has been written by a clinical health psychologist and can also be customised by disease state.”

The consumer launch will be a public relations-driven campaign, using Mr Clayton's past experience as a healthcare advertising and medical information communications specialist. He will also set up a campaign to inform doctors and pharmacists that the site is available.

“The rationale behind it is that because it is such a simple thing to remember – free patient support – we hope it will make GPs lives easier because all they'll have to do, rather than try to remember 40 different programs for 40 different drugs, is send them to one place. Send the patients to a one-stop-shop.”

He said that while there are some government-funded programs out there to inform the public about medications, specifically the NPS, there is no one group focusing on increasing compliance with medications.

“I'm looking forward to working with NPS in the future, but at present they do not have a formalised health consumer-focused strategy for helping health consumers take their medicine as directed by their doctor,” he said.

“I'm quite passionate about this because the WHO said that if we can actually increase compliance and the benefits of education and compliance programs, that will have a bigger impact than any medical intervention will have.

“The reason for that is because it cuts across all disease states and it cuts across all patients. It's not like doing something in hypertension or cancer or arthritis: it will have a bigger impact because it cuts across all disease states and all patients.

“The evidence does show that if you get patients to be educated and aware and on a program, then their health outcomes are improved by an average of 30 per cent. It is quite extraordinary.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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