The Synchronization Solution

By Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

Straying from the doctor’s orders can undermine a patient’s health – and result in unnecessary medical expenses. Medication nonadherence, whereby patients deviate from the regimen prescribed by their physician, costs an estimated $290 billion each year in avoidable health care expenses. Medicare has addressed the problem by encouraging medication synchronization, which aligns refill schedules so that patients can fill all their prescriptions on the same day each month. Now, pharmacists and policymakers question whether the process may prove similarly effective for the non-Medicare population.

In a recent Morning Consult column, B. Douglas Hoey of the National Community Pharmacists Association contends that synchronization can help patients “stay on track with their long-term medications.” Research seems to corroborate. In a 2013 study of patients requiring at least two prescriptions each to treat chronic diseases, researchers discovered that adherence levels for patients using a synchronization program were roughly twice that of patients who were not. Hoey argues that synchronization can also allow for patients to have a more in-depth conversation with their pharmacist on refill day to consider side effects and interaction among their medications.

An estimated 5,000 pharmacies offer synchronization services. But not all insurers cover partial fills, which pharmacists must provide to align multiple medication refill schedules. Attempting to refill a prescription before the established refill date may prompt coverage rejection and a “refill to soon” notice from insurers.

Thus far, four states have enacted laws to eliminate coverage obstacles and enable pharmacists to adjust prescription lengths to facilitate synchronization. As scrutiny over ballooning health care costs continues, more states may follow their lead.

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