New Study Shows How Adherence Improves Health, Saves Money

New Study Shows How Adherence Improves Health, Saves Money

08.16.12 | By Greg Lopes

There is a great article in the latest issue of Health Affairs that demonstrates yet again that properly adhering to prescribed treatments not only improves our health, but saves money. The Harvard and Express Scripts researchers looked at diabetes patients over three years and found that improved adherence to diabetes medications reduced the odds of a subsequent hospitalization or emergency department visit by 13 percent. Conversely, a decline in adherence was associated with 15 percent higher odds of these outcomes.

Consider these findings from the study:

  • The researchers project that improved adherence to diabetes medication could avert nearly 700,000 emergency department visits and close to 350,000 hospitalizations annually, for a total savings of $4.7 billion.
  • One out of every four diabetes patients in the study who was initially adherent to treatment became nonadherent over time.
  • Eliminating this loss of adherence could result in another $3.6 billion in annual savings, for a combined potential savings of $8.3 billion from improved use of medicines.

With nearly 26 million Americans affected by diabetes and the numbers growing for this and other costly chronic diseases, access and adherence to medicines is crucial to improving patient outcomes and controlling health care costs.

The Health Affairs study adds to a growing body of evidence on the value of good adherence. For example, I'm reminded of last year's study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that improved access and adherence to medicines through Medicare Part D saves Medicare about $1,200 in hospital, skilled nursing facility, and other costs for each senior who previously lacked comprehensive prescription drug coverage. Coupling this with Harvard Medical School research showing nearly 11 million seniors gained comprehensive prescription drug coverage because of Part D and the overall savings to Medicare in 2007 came to about $13 billion.

As reflected in these studies, properly adhering to prescribed medicines can have a deep impact on our physical well-being and the cost challenges plaguing America's health care system. As we look for solutions in keeping health care costs down, the role of medicines should not be underestimated.

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