Improving Patient Adherence to Medication

August 7, 2023

Exponent's John Doyle discusses the next generation of patient adherence support in this month's Pharmaceutical Commerce

Using intuitive digital tools and behavior science, life sciences companies have developed personalized strategies to remove patient barriers to taking medication regularly, says Exponent Group Vice President and Principal Scientist John Doyle, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., in a recent Pharmaceutical Commerce article discussing AI-driven enhancements for boosting medication adherence.

"The entire adherence challenge has been ripe for re-examination, because many of the early tools have been around for a while, achieving only moderate benefits," says Dr. Doyle, who also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Version 1.0 of adherence support really focused on tactical tools to provide one-way push reminders. There's still room for that strategy but we've all learned that that's not enough."

In the U.S., the article notes, over half of prescribed medications are not taken as indicated, costing pharmaceutical companies over $200 billion in revenue while driving an estimated $300 billion in preventable health costs each year.

"Today, the focus is on driving improved adherence through better upstream engagement by educating patients about their disease (especially the implications of its progression and the role the therapy plays) and about managing their medication (helping patients to understand the complex drug-administration requirements and potential side effects)," Doyle continues. "The next generation adherence support also catalyzes downstream engagement to track and analyze clinical, humanistic, economic, and even social outcomes." 

By developing interactive adherence-support tools, drug companies can collect data insights, both actively and passively, to understand how patients are managing medications while assessing overlooked parts of the patient experience.

According to the American Medical Association, several challenges undermine patient adherence to medication therapy. These include:

  • Fear of discomfort (say, from self-injection) or potential side effects
  • High out-of-pocket costs
  • Misunderstanding related to the importance of taking medications as prescribed
  • Complexity of the drug regimen, especially when multiple medications must be managed concurrently, each with its own complex dosing regimens and self-administration routines
  • Lack of tangible symptoms
  • Mistrust of physicians or healthcare systems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cognitive impairment

While improving human health outcomes, adherence-related initiatives can also play a role in stemming revenue losses on certain classes of medication. For instance, patients managing chronic conditions that present few symptoms can often stop taking prescriptions because the disease threat does not seem personally imminent. Since many chronic diseases do not present as urgent in everyday life, these new classes of intuitive digital and behavioral tools can boost patient medication adherence and outcomes for all healthcare stakeholders.


"The next generation adherence support also catalyzes downstream engagement to track and analyze clinical, humanistic, economic, and even social outcomes." —  John Doyle, Exponent Group Vice President and Principal Scientist


Read the full article here.


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Exponent is at the forefront of rapid developments in digital health technology. We can help you develop innovative solutions for large-scale deployment and adoption. Our scientists across multiple disciplines are uniquely equipped to identify challenges and opportunities in understanding, evaluating, and optimizing patient adherence.