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You don't need millions to be a pharmacy superhero

Do a google search for ‘medication adherence’ and you’ll get over two million results. Read on to find out why it's such a big deal, why adherence packaging is the best thing since sliced bread, and how technology makes magic you don't need millions to be a pharmacy superhero.

What is medication adherence and why is it so important? Medication adherence happens when patients take their medications as prescribed, for example twice a day for twelve months. Common sense tells us that medications should be taken as prescribed – after all, isn’t that why they were prescribed? However medications aren’t being taken as they should, and it’s a growing concern for everyone, from individuals to government. The cost of not taking medications as prescribed is $290 billion per year[i] and medication errors account for 10-20% of all hospital admissions[ii].

“Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” – C. Everett Koop, MD.

Why is adherence packaging the best thing since sliced bread, and why don’t I know about it? Adherence packaging is prepared just for you. It's got your name on it, all of your medications are organized by day and time that they should be taken, and it’s easy to see whether you’ve missed anything. Traditionally it’s prepared by pharmacies in two ways: 1) by hand – requires lots of staff & space, mistakes are common so getting the right pills into the right spots takes a lot of time, and 2) with pharmacy automation – requires a significant financial investment. Pharmacies who can invest promote it – PillPack and CVS are great examples, and there are a number of others successfully providing it to both long-term care facilities where nurses administer medications and to people at home who want an easy, convenient way to take their medications. Still, only a minority of pharmacies have had the luxury of investing in automation, so most people don’t know about adherence packaging, and even less are benefitting from it. In fact, many people still receive medications in vials and manually sort them into pill organizers!

How is software changing adherence and what’s ‘automation’ got to do with it? Pharmacies no longer have to invest an arm and a leg to be able to efficiently, accurately and cost-effectively provide adherence packaging - they can focus on patient care and customer service by outsourcing to a fully automated central fill. As you read this, Pack4U is delivering adherence packaging to pharmacies across the US, with Canadian expansion in sight. Software monitors the automation, making sure what should be packaged is packaged and receives a unique bar-code, and those bar-codes are scanned by nurses to make sure the right medications are given to the right patients...and in the not-so-distant future Mrs. Jones will use her smart phone to scan her bar-coded adherence packaging that has popped out of a dispenser on her counter, and if she misses a medication she’ll get a reminder…and if she still doesn’t take her medication her pharmacist or loved one or community nurse will check in with her to make sure everything’s ok. Technology makes magic happen, and it's more accessible than ever.

“Increasing the effectiveness of adherence interventions may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than any improvement in specific medical treatments.” – World Health Organization report on medication adherence

In the face of escalating healthcare costs, it’s motivating to be part of an organization focused on accelerating medication adherence, and to be arm in arm with the best of the best. Leading healthcare giant McKesson is aiming to deliver the ultimate medication adherence solution by bundling Catalyst Pharmacy software on low cost automation, allowing pharmacies to offer adherence packaging and bar-code scanning to their customers, while relying on ultra-efficient Pack4U central fills to do the heavy lifting. After all, our clients are heroes – impacting people's lives and directly addressing the $290 billion cost of not taking medications as prescribed – and we proudly outfit them with medication adherence superpowers!

Having an epiphany about medication adherence? I’d love to hear about it (250) 980-4713.

Kasumi “Kas” Oda is an outspoken advocate for using technology to improve profitability and efficiency in healthcare. She can be reached at (250) 980-4713.

[i] The New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI).
[ii] McKinsey Study, Strengthening healthcare supply chain.