The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every facet of our lives over the past two years. So much has changed, from how we interact socially to how we access healthcare and take our medications.
So how exactly has the pandemic affected medication adherence, and what can healthcare organizations do to drive improvements?
The Impact of COVID-19 on Medication Adherence
Poor medication adherence is a long-standing problem in healthcare. COVID-19 only exacerbated this costly, complex concern, introducing new barriers to adherence—some of which healthcare leaders are still trying to resolve.
Pandemic-related barriers to medication adherence include:
From strict protocols and quarantine mandates to the fear of exposure to COVID-19, several barriers have caused people to avoid leaving their homes. Many patients have avoided both in-person doctor and pharmacy visits since the pandemic began in early 2020. Some pharmacies were even forced to close or work limited hours. As a result, many individuals have been unable to fill prescriptions as needed.
Throughout the pandemic, many companies have been forced to close or lay off employees due to financial difficulties. Business challenges like these have created a domino effect, leaving newly unemployed patients with limited funds and a lack of health insurance. These financial constraints have ultimately caused many individuals to avoid filling medications—even patients treating chronic diseases.
Supply Chain Struggles
COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. A study by the Center for Analytics and Business Insights (CABI) at Washington University’s Olin Business School revealed that more than 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for essential medications across key therapeutic areas have no U.S. manufacturing source. Due to shortages, some patients have been unable to access medications.
Mental Health Challenges
Stress and mental health challenges due to COVID-19 have significantly impacted medication adherence. In a recent study, 18.2 percent of participants felt stressed “most” or “all of the time” during the pandemic. In a follow-up analysis, participants who were stressed “most” or “all of the time” had worse medication adherence compared to those who reported being stressed “some of the time” or “never.”
Improving Medication Adherence Amid the Pandemic
Despite increased medication non-adherence during the pandemic, healthcare organizations can still drive improvements with the right strategies and technologies:
Analyze Adherence Data
Adherence data can be beneficial when crafting medication adherence interventions. Understanding the data—and the psychology behind it—can help organizations influence lasting behavioral changes. In a recent survey, we found that after the initial spread of COVID-19, the percentage of prescriptions filled more than a week before their due date more than doubled, which was likely motivated by patients’ fears of being unable to access their medications.
Reduce Cost and Access Barriers
Reducing cost and access barriers can also improve medication adherence. Consider different ways to improve the affordability of medications, such as financial assistance programs for low-income and unemployed patients. Telehealth appointments and pharmacy delivery programs can improve patient access to medications, though access is not as big of a concern in recent months.
Increase Support for High-Risk Patients
Our research revealed that high-risk patients need more support to stay adherent during the pandemic. Using artificial intelligence (AI), you can predict which high-risk patients are most likely to become non-adherent and target them for interventions. Additionally, AI can predict which patients will be most responsive to intervention, increasing the likelihood of achieving positive results.
Personalize Patient Outreach with AI
AI can help personalize patient outreach by channel, content, timing, and cadence. With this technology, organizations can leverage varied, robust datasets to predict the best intervention channel, content, and timing for each individual and make a positive impact on their behavior, without overwhelming them in the process.
If you are looking for ways to adapt your patient support programs to improve medication adherence amid the pandemic and beyond, we can help. Request a demo for a firsthand look at our AI engine and learn about the benefits for healthcare organizations like yours.