Helping patients stay on track with taking prescribed medications

For patients prescribed multiple drugs for a variety of chronic health conditions, adherence — staying on track with daily medications — can be challenging, and when doses are missed or stopped, a cycle of dangerous health risks can begin.

Anna Hall, Pharm.D., a clinical assistant professor at UF College of Pharmacy
Anna Hall, Pharm.D., a clinical assistant professor at UF College of Pharmacy

In January, a researcher at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy received a grant to examine data from an intervention program that helps patients stay on needed medications. Anna Hall, Pharm.D., supervises the program as part of the UF Medication Therapy Management Communication and Care Center at the college’s Lake Nona campus in Orlando.

A one-year, $50,000 award from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation will fund Hall’s research showing the effectiveness of the center’s medication adherence services for Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan members of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. — a government-sponsored health care provider.

Contracted by WellCare, UF is coordinating its services with a company that uses a modeling tool for predicting prescription-taking behavior. The company, RxAnte, uses its risk score to determine which patients will potentially benefit from the adherence services provided by UF.

In 2012, Hall and her team developed a program to help plan members stay on course with their prescribed medications. Technicians and pharmacists at the UF Medication Therapy Management Communication and Care Center contact the members by telephone to identify patient-specific barriers, such as medication expense, complaints of side effects or the belief that a drug isn’t needed, and offer interventions tailored for individual patients.

The center provides ongoing follow-up support to encourage medication adherence, such as reminder tools, patient education, solutions for obtaining timely refills and tools to address issues such as high medication costs that might present an obstacle for patients.

Under the new grant, Hall will begin analyzing patient data and measuring the program’s overall effectiveness in improving individual patient adherence and overall adherence scores for the health plan.

“The award is funding research that will measure the success of the combined efforts of UF’s adherence services together with RxAnte’s predictive analytics,” said Hall, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research. “By partnering in research, we all share a common dedication to measuring our effectiveness at improving patient medication adherence.”

Hall’s research aims to better predict which services patients need to help keep them on track with their medications, estimate the cost-effectiveness of these interventions and determine how well they are working; all factors that affect the prescription drug plan’s quality ratings.

All Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans receive quality ratings, called “star ratings,” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services based on health plan data. Star ratings are publicly reported and impact health care provider reimbursement based on the Centers’ “pay for performance” guidelines, which reward providers for attaining certain measures for quality and efficiency. Hall’s research will evaluate the impact of UF-contracted services on WellCare Health Plans’ star rating for three measures related to medication adherence for three classes of drug: oral diabetics, antihypertensive medications and cholesterol-lowering medications.