How Smart Incentives Can Help Solve Health Care’s $300 Billion Medication Adherence Problem

by Ted Speers

Half of all patients do not take medications as prescribed and adherence is lowest among patients with chronic disease.

In our partnerships with health care plans and providers over the last eight years, we’ve come to understand that medication adherence is a huge problem for health plans, providers and physicians – and ultimately, patients. And, when we encounter one of these business problems, we look to our 25-plus years of experience in consumer engagement and incentives to find solutions.

In our experience working with more than 20 health care plans and providers, our rewards and healthy incentives have helped health care organizations realize 10 – 20 percent improvement in goals year-over-year, including key patient behaviors. Specifically, increases in medication adherence have contributed significantly in helping Medicare Advantage plans achieve a 5 Star Rating.

Our programs, such as our 3-touch medication adherence campaign, can deliver for less than $4 – $6 per member. This is a great value for everyone with chronic conditions considering total potential savings from adherence and related disease management could be $290 billion annually.

For example, a major Midwest Medicare Advantage plan set a goal to target and increase key health measures to improve its 4.5 Star Rating. Specifically, it aimed to improve medication adherence for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The plan partnered with Entertainment® to create a two-year strategic engagement program that rewarded patients with savings for adhering to their prescribed medication plan. The savings program included a launch communication piece, a reminder and a final reward book with high-value incentives. By the end of the program, the plan exceeded its goals by 20 percent. The program was one of the key components in the plan achieving a 5 Star Rating.

Many health care organizations are looking at ways to use behavior economics to improve wellness. In general, people make bad decisions even when they know those decisions are harmful. Health care organization Humana is testing out new ways to change patient behavior. Humana has piloted several innovative programs, including using reminder messages from celebrities versus physicians to encourage healthy behaviors.

Just like celebrities can motivate patients so can coupons. Coupons are universally loved – 96 percent of consumers use coupons regularly and love to save. These special healthy rewards programs that we’ve created for our health care clients are a proven motivator to engage patients and even help to change patient behavior. These days, it is extremely challenging to motivate patients to make the right choices, and we have to get creative in how we engage and ultimately change their behaviors. Using fun versus fear to help appeal and connect with patients on an emotional level is always a good place to start.

Ted Speers
LinkedIn Profile
Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Entertainment® Corporate Marketing Solutions