“What if we took a research, data-driven approach to this problem?” Those were the words of Fullscript’s Medical Director, Dr. Alex Keller, as his team wrestled with where to go next on the topic of treatment adherence.
The challenge of keeping patients adherent
Treatment adherence has proven to be one of the most intractable challenges in healthcare. Low adherence to treatment plans causes significant healthcare burdens, costs, and poor patient outcomes. The estimated cost of non-adherence to the U.S. healthcare system runs between $100-290 billion annually, while it’s estimated that 30-69% of hospital admissions occur due to medication non-adherence.
“Our mission is to help people get better, and adherence to a treatment plan is critical for people to get better,” said Dr. Keller. With that, Fullscript’s Integrative Medical Advisory Team went to work on creating the Treatment adherence in integrative medicine report.
Despite being a significant issue in the healthcare industry, there was no comprehensive study completed on the topic of treatment adherence within the integrative care model. To fill the gap, the team went through an exhaustive review of existing literature in both conventional and integrative medicine. The team also conducted research interviews with real healthcare practitioners in the field.
“While we have several practitioners on staff at Fullscript, relatively few of our employees are practicing healthcare practitioners,” said Jaslyn English, one of the paper’s authors. “This approach allowed us to really understand the needs of our practitioners when it came to improving their patients’ adherence to their treatment plans.”
In total, the 34-page report was created over a 12-month timeframe and features several key findings. One key finding is that a practitioner needs to understand that each patient may have unique barriers to adherence. That thinking applies when creating strategies to improve adherence overall — one adherence strategy may be effective for Patient A but perhaps not for Patient B. To improve treatment adherence, practitioners must uncover the most critical potential barriers for a particular individual and then adopt adherence strategies based on the issue. This will be an iterative process. However, the practitioner may need to adapt and either change or add new strategies to see adherence improvements and maintain those improvements long term. For the full picture, check out the complete report.
Next steps for treatment adherence
“We’re hopeful that practitioners will draw conclusions from the paper and develop tailored solutions to the barriers that their patients encounter,” said Ross Bailey, one of the paper’s authors. “The hope is that adherence, and thus patient outcomes, are meaningfully improved.”
To support practitioners as they take critical next steps, the report outlines information and tools practitioners can use in their practice. These include how to measure treatment plan adherence, practical strategies for improving adherence, and some of the most significant barriers to adherence. Barriers identified include cost, patient readiness to change, patients being overwhelmed by their treatment plan, and more.
This report isn’t just for practitioners, either. Its findings will play a significant role in the development of the Fullscript platform going forward. “It feels like we know our practitioners even better than before we started this process,” said Dr. Christopher Knee, who was a key contributor to the report. “We’re able to take all this research and build it into tangible features to support practitioners in keeping their patients adherent.”
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