Daily Dose of Sustainability

When most hear the word “sustainability,” it usually brings to mind solar panels, electric cars, and other examples of going “green.” However, when it comes to healthcare, sustainability can also mean financially-responsible programs that deliver care efficiently over the long-term. It also means helping patients sustain healthy lifestyles through practices like adherence to prescribed medicines.

Medical adherence serves as a critical component of sustainability across the entire healthcare system. Some estimates show that non-adherence leads to an estimated $290 billion in avoidable costs annually—largely the result of negative health consequences when patients do not take medications properly. In other words, patients who do not adhere to prescription regimens oftentimes get sick as a result, requiring further treatment at a greater expense while creating inefficiency across the system as a whole.

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The medical community supports programs that help patients reverse patterns of non-adherence so they can maintain physical and financial health in the long term. Last month, for example, HHS took an important step to help patients manage prescriptions by clarifying rules on the “refill reminder exception.” This rule allows pharmacies to send patients reminders for prescription refills, as well as adherence reminders that encourage individuals to take prescribed medicines as directed. Studies show that reminders like these have a proven record of keeping patients on track with their medications, helping them remain healthy in the long run—a key factor in healthcare sustainability.

Last month marked the release of results from an important 15-month study of medicine adherence patterns. Studies like these allow medical professionals to more accurately identify individuals at risk of non-adherence, and to formulate targeted intervention strategies for those patients.

Addressing medical non-adherence remains a critical step toward achieving greater sustainability in the healthcare system. It requires cooperation between doctors, pharmacies, and the pharmaceutical community as we work together to support healthy lifestyles for our patients. Until then, we will strive to support all efforts that promote sustainable practices across our industry, be they “green” or otherwise.