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Electronic Health Records and the prescription stop-gap

How life sciences companies and providers can help ensure patients fill prescriptions

It’s a common scenario in the doctor-patient relationship: a doctor prescribes medication. The patient forgets or decides not to fill a prescription because of concerns about its cost or use. Their health is increasingly put at risk.

A new stop-gap solution being rolled out to 100,000 U.S. health care providers attempts to bridge the gap between the doctor’s office and the patient’s home by delivering prescriptions to the patient’s door and providing follow-up pharmacy support.

RxStart™, a new prescriber solution from Aptus Health that’s integrated into the Electronic Health Record (EHR), helps streamline the prescription process to improve what’s often called the “new-to-brand” experience –that first time a patient starts a new therapy, according to Bob MacMillan, the company’s vice president of EHR and innovation. Aptus Health offers a range of products and services focused on advancing health engagement.

“It’s an extension of care that helps physicians—and their patients—get off on the right start with a new medication,” said MacMillan.

The new solution benefits both patients who might need extra information once they leave the doctor’s office, as well as physicians who previously may have perceived the EHR as a regulatory chore instead of a functional solution to patient education and compliance.

It also addresses concerns around new patient starts and prescription costs. In the past, patients might leave a doctor’s office with samples, vouchers or coupons to fill their prescriptions. Those resources aren’t always available and doctors typically don’t have the relationships to access those resources in the modern health care arena, MacMillan said.

In fact, a recent Aptus Health survey of members of its U.S. web and mobile physician community found that cost is the biggest factor doctors consider when choosing to prescribe therapy. In the study, nearly 72% of the 270 doctors surveyed cited cost when considering prescribing a therapy, followed by the doctor’s own familiarity with the drug and confidence in the patient’s ability to fulfill the prescription.

When it comes to barriers to keeping patients on the therapy, 75% of physician respondents cite cost as the primary reason, followed by patients’ concerns about the side effects of the medication or other questions about the therapy.

Convenience matters, too; the majority of the doctors surveyed believed their patients would be more likely to take their prescribed medication if it was delivered directly to their home. Having product delivered to a patient’s door on a trial basis mitigates the treatment gaps and highlights the importance of following the doctor’s health care plan, MacMillan said.

Most of the doctors surveyed also believed their patients would benefit from receiving a follow up call from the pharmacy during the initial prescription period and from receiving educational materials beyond what is provided during the office visit.

Given the central role that EHRs play in just about every clinical encounter, it makes sense for them to serve as a point-of-care tool for improving the new-to-brand experience. Starting in 2009, the U.S. government began to mandate clinicians’ use of EHRs to help improve transparency in the healthcare system. However, doctors have become frustrated with EHRs because of the focus on meeting government mandates for billing and documentation instead of being able to easily communicate and navigate through records, said Dr. David Scher*, a cardiologist and digital health technology consultant. “They were not designed for the clinical encounter with regards to workflow,” said Scher.

As EHRs move from government mandates to improvements in usability, Dr. Scher sees an opportunity for new business models that help develop the relationship between patients and doctors. If doctors had more ways to effectively use the information in their EHRs, they would have more digital tools to help their patients, Scher said.

Through solutions like RxStart, doctors can get more value from their EHRs and set their patients on the right track after a clinical visit, MacMillan said. When a doctor prescribes a certain medication through the EHR, they’re automatically alerted about the availability of this free trial and patient support program. The prescriber can then enroll a consenting patient in the program. This triggers the patient’s first prescription to be electronically submitted to a Program Pharmacy for home delivery of the initial free trial supply.

This approach aims to make the electronic prescribing process easy for doctors by maintaining a simple workflow and making patient enrollment seamless and non-disruptive, MacMillan said.

And it doesn’t end there. As part of the RxStart program, pharmacy specialists contact patients at their home after the clinical visit to answer questions, share more information about the medication, and encourage patients to continue follow up with their doctor. The program also helps patients arrange for refills, if written, beyond the trial period, MacMillan said.

It’s an integrated approach that has the potential to bring together life sciences companies, providers, and their patients at the point of care to improve the new to brand experience for all.

For more information, please download a free whitepaper here.

*Dr. Scher is an independent consultant, not a spokesperson for Aptus Health. 

Top image credit: Flickr; kev-shine