Patient Advocates Hail Synchronization as Commonsense Tool

by Amanda Conschafter, Blog Editor

Patients with chronic conditions may undermine their own wellness by straying from their physicians’ instructions.  Medical non-adherence – that is, skipping doses or failing to fill your prescription medication as directed – is surprisingly common.  Primary care physicians estimate that one in five patients compromise their health this way.  It’s also surprisingly expensive; non-adherence costs approximately $290 billion a year in added care-related costs, such as hospital and emergency room visits.

Patient advocates point to a simple solution: medication synchronization.

By aligning prescription refill dates, patients can simplify the process of receiving the medications they need – when they need them.  (Monthly communication with the patient’s physicians ensures that only medications still required get filled.)  In this way, basic coordination can improve patients’ health by encouraging adherence to their physicians’ treatment plan.

Aligning all prescriptions on a single refill day, however, can pose a logistical challenge.  Physicians may, to adjust prescriptions cycles, need to provide partial fills for some medications, which insurers may not cover.  Adjusted quantities may also prompt a “refill too soon” rejection from coverage providers.

In January 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced policy changes that could help remove logistical barriers to synchronization.  In brief, Part D sponsors must apply a daily cost-sharing rate to most prescriptions dispensed as less than a 30-day supply, facilitating partial fills.  But advocates say that state-level legislation is required to further encourage widespread use of synchronization, facilitating patient adherence and lowering unnecessary care costs.

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