Video Consults: A New Health Care Era

Pharmacy TimesFebruary 2014 Autoimmune Disorders
Volume 80
Issue 2

Finding ways to help patients take their medicine as prescribed by their physician will not only help drive better health outcomes but also reduce costs.

Finding ways to help patients take their medicine as prescribed by their physician will not only help drive better health outcomes but also reduce costs.

Filling a prescription does not mean that it will be taken as prescribed— or even taken at all. In fact, according to IMS Health data, for every 100 prescriptions written, 48 to 66 are picked up, 25 to 30 are taken properly, and 15 to 20 are refilled.1 IMS also reported in June 2013 that patients not adhering to their doctors’ medication guidance experienced complications that led to an estimated $105 billion in annual avoidable health care costs.2 From these numbers alone, it is easy to see that finding ways to help patients take their medicine as prescribed by their physician will not only help drive better health outcomes but also reduce costs.

To that end, Catamaran has developed tools that increase adherence through personalized engagement. The most successful innovations have found a way to create personalized touch points for patients, empowering them to take charge of their health, which in turn leads to health care cost savings.

A Personalized Approach

A “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work in health care; patients are individuals with unique risks and preferences. We intervene in a patient-preferred way, engaging each member to help them make the best possible choices. The recently updated Catamaran mobile app, for example, provides a way for members to interact and engage in their pharmacy benefit with reminders to refill prescriptions, take medication, learn about medication side effects and interactions, and find pharmacies by zip code or location and compare current prescription prices.

Additionally, our video consults provide a new way for patients with complex illnesses to connect with their pharmacist to learn how to use newly prescribed medications in real time in the comfort of their own home. This industry-first innovation enables a personalized consultation between a trained Catamaran pharmacist and the patient—and family members or other caregivers—via a secure, real-time video consult on their tablet, laptop, or desktop.

We piloted this offering with our members managing complex diseases in specialty and medication therapy management (MTM). Since specialty patients must learn to administer high-cost therapies to manage their condition, it is incredibly important to educate patients about how to properly use their medication. This sets them up for success and arms them with the knowledge and ability necessary to be adherent to their treatment plans.

Traditionally, medication counseling like this happens at the retail counter, over the telephone, through written communication, or via a home health care nurse— but there are potential downfalls to each of these methods. Patients are often left feeling alone and overwhelmed, rushed, unsure of exactly what to do, or anxious because someone is standing over them in their home. This adds to an already stressful situation for patients newly diagnosed with a serious condition.

The video consult helps address these issues, engaging patients in a way that makes them feel confident with self-administration of complex medication therapies. It helps to ease patient uncertainty and anxiety by giving them guidance and support, without intruding on their personal space. By allowing patients to develop a relationship with their pharmacist in a way that’s convenient for them, patients can feel comfortable asking questions in the future and getting the personalized care they need.

Our video consults are not only more convenient for patients, but can also help increase compliance by delivering training and information directly to the patient in a customized, personalized, convenient way. If patients know how to take their medicine, they are more likely to take it.

How Video Consulting Works

When a specialty pharmacy patient is prescribed a new complex medication therapy from a physician, Catamaran immediately coordinates a video consult appointment with one of its clinical pharmacists trained in online patient engagement. These consultations are recordable, allowing patients and caregivers the ability to watch the footage again when they need a refresher.

A box containing the medication and all needed supplies is then delivered to the patient’s home. During the initial video consultation, the pharmacist “unboxes” the same set of supplies that the patient received. The pharmacist then answers any questions or concerns via videoconference, ensuring that the patient is fully supported.

The process works in a similar way for MTM, with the patient showing his or her prescriptions to the pharmacist via video. MTM consultations tend to last about 20 minutes, and family members and other caregivers are encouraged to participate. This collaborative participation with caregivers serves 2 purposes: it offers an additional set of eyes and ears to ensure that the patient can continue the regimen on his or her own, plus it helps ensure compliance as patients have additional support in overseeing and administrating their medications. Each session takes place over a secure and private connection to ensure total patient privacy.

The Future of Connecting with Patients

The mobile app and video consults are just 2 examples of how we are developing new ways to connect with members in the ways they prefer. Patients value convenience, personalization, and a nonintrusive interaction with their health care providers. Based on these characterizations, it is undeniable that routine check-ins and other interactions between patients and their health care providers will move to a virtual mode of communication. As technology evolves, these virtual connections will become more and more sophisticated and effective. Adherence to prescription medication regimens is one of the most important lines of defense in health care, offering the most economical and least intrusive way to manage illnesses. Because of this, Catamaran will continue to innovate around how to encourage patients to take medication as prescribed by their physicians— to stay healthy and lower costs for themselves and the system as a whole.

Sumit Dutta, MD, MBA, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Catamaran, is responsible for clinical products, services, and medical affairs, and leads overall health care strategy at Catamaran. He heads the team responsible for the development of Catamaran’s clinical programs, clinical reporting, drug information publications, formulary management process, and professional practices.

Catamaran, the industry’s fastest growing pharmacy benefit manager, helps organizations and the communities they serve take control of prescription drug costs. Managing more than 250 million prescriptions each year on behalf of 25 million members, the company’s flexible, holistic solutions improve patient care and empower individuals to take charge of their health.


  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Pharmacies. Improving health, reducing costs, July 2010. Based data from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics data.
  • Avoidable costs in US Healthcare. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics website. Accessed February 14, 2014.

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