Automated Reminders Improve Heart Disease Medication Adherence

NOVEMBER 18, 2014
Krystle Vermes
Patients with chronic cardiovascular disease who receive automated reminders for their prescription blood pressure and cholesterol medications are more likely to refill those drugs, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care on November 17, 2014.
For their study, researchers identified 21,752 Kaiser Permanente health plan members who had diabetes or heart disease and were either overdue or soon-to-be-due to refill a prescription for a statin or another medication to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. The patients were then randomized to receive usual care, an automated phone call intervention, or an enhanced intervention that included reminder letters and calls to refill their prescription, providing an option to be transferred to an automated refill line or speak with a pharmacist.
According to the researchers, those who received the enhanced intervention were more likely to refill their medications, and also saw significant reductions in their cholesterol levels.
“These and other studies suggest that [health information technology- or electronic medical record-based] reminder interventions offer a promising population-based approach to promoting adherence,” the authors concluded.
Although the average improvement in medication adherence was only about 2 percentage points in the study population, the authors claimed that even a small change could make a huge difference.
"This small jump might not mean a lot to an individual patient, but on a population level, it could translate into fewer heart attacks, fewer deaths, and fewer hospitalizations, which will ultimately have an important impact on public health," said lead study author William M. Vollmer, PhD, in a press release.
Currently, Americans who receive medications for chronic ailments only take those drugs as prescribed between 50% and 60% of the time, resulting in roughly 125,000 deaths, according to a recent federal report.