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By Katrina Firlik, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Although modern pharmaceuticals and advanced drug delivery systems save and improve the lives of millions of people around the world, there are countless others whose lives are not saved or improved—because they don’t take the medication at all, or often enough. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop summed it up best: “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”
And, although drug cost has rightly been identified as a barrier to medication adherence for many patients, there is increasing recognition that cost is often not the only, or even the main, barrier. In fact, offering medication for free makes only a relatively small dent in the problem, as evidenced by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and as demonstrated by similar rates of non-adherence in European countries in which medication is essentially free to its citizens.
So, what is the hidden barrier that looms large, contributing to poor outcomes and an estimated $290 billion in “otherwise avoidable medical costs” in the US per year? Motivation. Medication non-adherence—particularly to therapy for chronic conditions—reflects a psychological hurdle inherent in any behavior that offers mainly long-term benefits (similar to saving for retirement). A behavioral economist would call this “present bias,” or the natural preference for short-term rewards over long-term rewards. In a sense, this represents more of a “value” problem.
HealthPrize boosts motivation by adding short-term rewards for patients, enhancing the immediate value of sticking with chronic therapy. Our online and mobile platform leverages a points-based incentive program combined with education and gamification strategies. Patients on a HealthPrize program actually have fun engaging with our system and learning more about their condition. The fun factor is an important motivational element too often missing in healthcare.
Our new collaboration with West, announced here, ties our rewards, education, and gamification platform directly to West’s injectable drug delivery systems to form a compelling end-to-end connected health solution. Data on actual completion of self-injection will be captured, allowing adherence to be verified and rewarded in real time. The HealthPrize platform also tracks refills, with a focus on motivating patients to fill on time and to persist with therapy long-term.
We’re thrilled to be joining forces with West in addressing this “final mile” problem in health care. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially patients.