How New Tech and Specialty Pharmacies Could Fix Prescription Adherence

Ryan Black
JANUARY 04, 2018

John Giannouris knows that the pharmaceutical industry is changing.

“Patient journey is king,” Giannouris, the vice president of specialty pharma at ValueCentric, told Healthcare Analytics News™ in a recent interview. “In the pharma industry, if you can understand what the patient is going through then you can customize how you want to interact with that patient. It's critical.”

A fundamental part of that understanding is the ability to monitor adherence. While the entire pharmaceutical industry is evolving through technology and analytics (alongside the whole healthcare industry at large), nowhere are the changes more evident than with the new adherence-tracking capabilities.  

“The old-fashioned way of measuring adherence was when the patient went back for the refill, if it was it done within 2 days, 3 days, 5 days…” Giannouris said. If the refill period was, say, 90 days, it could become very difficult to get a meaningful read of how a patient was adhering to the drug.

Now, “There's other devices that are out there that actually can help you track adherence not just on a daily [basis] but every time they have to dose,” he said. He pointed to examples like digital pill bottle caps that can track when the bottle is opened, wearables that can provide adherence reminders and prompts, and the new digital pills that can send a signal when they are digested. The first such medication was approved in late 2017, and researchers are studying whether the technology could be useful in preventing abuse.

The nature of those innovations—novel, controlled, and often expensive—often leads them into Giannouris’s wheelhouse: specialty pharmacies. “Specialty pharmacies do a better job at keeping patients adherent, in the 80% range,” he said. “Let's say these devices could probably up that, get patients to 90+%...I think that's an area that is not [yet] tapped, but that will be.”

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