Did Your Employees Take Their Pills Today?

Pamela Swingley

Apr 6, 2010

Did Your Employees Take Their Pills Today?

"Pill's don't work if patients don't take them."

- Dr. Charles Evert Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General

U.S. citizens are taking more medications than ever before. In fact, 81% of adults in the U.S. take at least one medication during a given week, and 27% take at least five medications. While we are taking more medications, we often do not take them as we should. Medication noncompliance, when patients don't take their pills as prescribed, is one of the most pressing issues impacting our health care system. The cost is astronomical, and while we all pay part of the price, employers carry much of the burden with higher health insurance costs.

We All Forget

Taking medications correctly is a challenge for people of all ages, with all types of conditions. It may be Greg in accounting with high blood pressure, or Nancy, that has diabetes, or Eileen who is nearing retirement. The fact is most of us simply forget to take our pills, stop taking them because we feel better, or forget to reorder.

A poll by the Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive found that one in three adults who had been prescribed any drug to take on a regular basis, reported that they did not follow the doctor-recommended course of treatment. And, two-thirds of adults reported, that they simply forgot to take their medication.

It's probably not hard to believe that one out of three of your employees is forgetting to take their pills or mismanaging their medication in one way or the other. With most employees juggling, family, work, relationships, bills, dinner, picking up their kids, (all within one day and everyday), it's easy to understand how medicine can get neglected.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

Taking medications the wrong way is an extremely costly and dangerous problem. It increases the chances of severe medical complications, or even death. Estimates of the total annual healthcare costs in the U.S. resulting from patient noncompliance vary from $177 billion to $300 billion. What is frustrating is that much of this cost can be prevented.

Employers, faced with escalating healthcare costs, have started to pay attention. According to a 2009 study by the Benfield Group, medication noncompliance was rated as the most important priority to 89% of employers in health management objectives. Only preventive care (97%) and lifestyle behaviors (91%) were rated with more importance.

Mobile Health = Healthier Employees

Until recently, one of the drawbacks of remembering to take medications was that most reminder aids were not much help. Bulky pill box dispensers, alarm watches, special pill dispensing devices, and sticky notes have significant shortcomings. Either they are too complicated to setup, don't fit in well with active lifestyles, or don't accommodate the complex medication schedules many patients follow on a regular basis. To be effective, medication reminders must fit in seamlessly with the patient's lifestyle.

Enter the nearly universal cell phone. For most working Americans their cell phones are never more than a few feet away. The cell phone is an ideal device to receive electronic reminders to take their medications, check their blood sugar, or go to an appointment. Taking medications correctly helps employees stay healthier and be more productive. In the 2003 Division of Medical Services report by the State of Missouri, it stated the average monthly Medicaid Costs for Diabetic patients with reminders was $949 compared to $1233 without reminders. And according to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatric liver transplant recipients had a 69% medication compliance rate with reminders vs. 48% compliance rate without SMS reminders.

Smart Phones: Medication Reminders and More

The next generation of cell phones, the smart phone is experiencing rapid adoption. Smart phones such as the Apple iPhone, the BlackBerry and new Google Nexus, open even more options for mobile health applications. With a smart phone, not only do employees receive reminders to take the right medication, at the right time, in the right dose, they have their health information in the palm of their hand. In addition, they have access to hundreds of health apps that do everything from monitoring blood glucose levels to measuring visual acuity.

Besides providing simple medication reminders, smart phone technology also provides more eHealth opportunities than you would expect. Some services go beyond helping employees manage health costs with extra features like personal health records, wellness tracking, lab reports, health charts, and more. These can reap a lot of benefits for everyone and are all within the grasp of your fingertips.

What to Look for in a Medication Reminder Service

Whether you provide a reminders service for your employees, or direct them to a solution to help them take control of their health, there are some things you should look for.

* Ease of use. If it's not easy for your employees to use, they won't. Reminders should take the worry out of life, not add to it. Look for a solution that is designed from the patient's perspective, not from the medical industry’s’. Select one that has the features they need for their own health or the health care of someone else. The software should be intuitive and work the way they do.

* Reliable. While there is no service that can offer 100% reliability, reminders are worthless if they are not received. Watch out for companies that don't have a revenue model as they won't be able to invest in technology that improves reliability.

* Secure - Look for services that take security seriously. This should include password protection, care communities with different administration and privilege levels controlled by the main user, tier 1 data hosting, audit trails, inactivity time-out, and HTTPS transmissions. These steps show that a company has made investments in protecting your employees health information.

* Beyond reminders - Reminders are just a small part of an overall eHealth solution. The service should also allow your employees to track their medication history, record prescription information, get reminders for events, share reports with doctors, print a wallet list, and keep their health profile information close at hand. The key is to invest in a solution that will expand with your employees needs.

* Flexibility - No two people have the same medication schedule. Reminders should be flexible enough to accommodate all types of medications, oral, patch, injection, etc. It should support medications taken at different times of the day or support changes in time zones. It should also support supplements as well as prescription medications with the ability to add special instructions with the reminders, (such as how to take it, where it's stored, and more).

* Support - No matter how simple a service, at some point you have a question. How easy is it to find an answer? Does the company have online support? Phone support? email support? Is secured account sharing available for tricky support questions?

* Availability Whether it's a text messaging service or a mobile application, the service needs to work on the phones that the majority of your employees use. An iPhone only reminder service has a limited market potential. The service should be available from any browser "in the cloud" to support employees at home, at work, or on the go.

Pamela Swingley, is CEO & Founder of RememberItNow! As a seasoned software executive with more than 20 years of experience working with technology companies, Pam created RememberItNow! to help take care of her father. Pam has a passion for early stage companies and has managed marketing strategy and programs for three successful startups: Onlink Technologies which was acquired by Siebel, Shoplink Collision Estimating, a division of ADP, and Gate58 Marketing, a leader in B2B lead generation.

About RememberItNow!

RememberItNow! makes eHealth easy. Designed from the patient's point-of-view, it is simple to schedule medication reminders, maintain a personal health record, and create a care community. Getting started is fast and free at www.RememberItNow.com. RememberItNow's patient-centric SaaS platform is also available to healthcare providers, employers, and long-term care facilities. Headquartered in Orinda, CA, RememberItNow! is privately held.