Implementing Message-Based System Improves Patient Engagement, Adherence

Specialty Pharmacy TimesOctober 2020
Volume 3
Issue 3

The right communication system can increase patient engagement and adherence while allowing the pharmacy team to turn their attention to other issues.

Although finding and implementing a mobile platform for patients using specialty pharmacy can seem daunting, the right system can increase patient engagement and adherence while allowing the pharmacy team to turn their attention to other issues. During a session at the 2020 National Association of Specialty Pharmacy Annual Meeting & Expo Virtual Experience, leaders from Fairview Pharmacy Services and Fairview Specialty Pharmacy discussed how they selected a mobile platform and what they learned from the process.1

Fairview Specialty Pharmacy has a single location with approximately 9000 patients in all 50 states, according to Mel Nelson, PharmD, CSP, regional operations manager for Fairview Pharmacy Services. She said research has documented significant patient support for message-based contact, with 83% of respondents indicating they would welcome text reminders to take their medications, check their blood pressure, or similar tasks. Similarly, 78% of patients said they would like to have a text conversation with a business. Perhaps most significantly, studies have found that text response rates are 209% higher than response rates for phone calls.

“[This] just really solidified that we were finding a solution that was really wanted by our patients,” said copresenter Amanda Robinson, CPhT, access services manager for Fairview Specialty Pharmacy.

Robinson said prospective vendors should be customizable, integrated, compliant with both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and user friendly and have reporting capabilities. Nelson added that standard SMS messaging is typically not HIPAA compliant and limits the information a message can include.

After weighing their options, Nelson said, Fairview settled on Relay Network. Although it does not check all the boxes on their list, Robinson and Nelson agreed that it has worked well. They rolled it out gradually, releasing refill reminders first in July 2019, followed by ad hoc messaging in August, 1-click ordering in November, and finally a 2-way chat in July 2020.

Instead of solely communicating via text, the system initiates communication with an SMS message, including a link to its secure web space, where more personal information is available. Robinson has also created more than 50 "journeys" using this technology . She said the journeys are designed to provide a specific patient experience. These journeys can include onboarding, refill reminders, status updates, ad hoc messaging, 1-click ordering capability, and a 2-way chat feature. Notably, Robinson said the journeys can do a lot of work by themselves, obviating the need to call the vendor.

In just over a year, Robinson said, 8885 patients have connected to the platform, with just a 1.27% opt-out rate. Patients have used 71,580 journeys, the most common including refill reminders, order scheduling, daily onboarding, and late refills. Phone calls per patient per month have decreased from 2 to 1.5, and although this rate seems small, Nelson said it is significant when multiplied by the number of patients.

Perhaps most notably, patients who use the platform and click on the links in their texts have better adher - ence compared with patients who do not click through. Patients who were late to refill were also able to explain why, and Robinson said they found that patients who were 1 to 7 days late were typically still adherent. They may have filled their prescriptions early the preceding month or may have stopped taking their medication temporarily because of an infection or other medical reason. Regardless, Nelson noted, the messaging system clearly helps maintain adherence.

Finally, Nelson said they have had lar gely positive feedback from patients. In a survey, many patients described the platform as “convenient,” “easy,” and “user friendly,” and the vast majority said they would recommend the platform. By continuing to expand the system’s capabilities and meet their patients’ needs, Nelson concluded, the software can be a great tool for pharmacy teams as well as their patients.


  • Nelson M and Robinson A. Utilizing technology for patient communication in specialty. Presented at: 2020 National Association of Specialty Pharmacy Annual Meeting & Expo Virtual Experience; September 14-18, 2020.

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