New Study: Aligning Rx Refill Dates Improves Patient Adherence

New research confirms that patients are more likely to follow their medication regimen if they receive all prescription drugs at the same time each month. Known as “synchronization,” the concept was the focus of a University of Pennsylvania study of Medicare Advantage patients. The study showed that aligning multiple refill dates on mail-order prescription drugs resulted in more patients taking their medications as directed.

University of Pennsylvania Research

Through a pilot program by a national insurer, University of Pennsylvania researchers tracked about 700 Medicare Advantage patients for 12 months before and after their medication refill dates were synchronized. Each patient took between two and six prescription drugs.

Data demonstrated that adjusting prescription medication schedules so that patients submit only one – rather than multiple – refill requests increased adherence to medication regimens by three to five percent over the control group. Patients who had the lowest initial levels of adherence improved by nine to 13 percent over the control group.

Adherence & Synchronization

Some sources estimate that nearly half of patients are non-adherent, which can impact patient health and introduce avoidable health care expenses. Synchronization may not increase adherence for patients who are ambivalent about treatment or who simply forget to take their pills, but it can help the one-third of people who miss doses because they’ve forgotten to request a refill in time.

The initial process of aligning refill dates can pose challenges for some patients. Pharmacists may need to provide a partial fill, or less than the standard 30-day supply, on one or more medications. Insurers may not cover the partial refill.   State and federal legislation has removed this barrier for Medicare Part D and some privately insured patients.

An estimated 23 pharmacy chains and 20,000 community pharmacies now offer medication synchronization.


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