Paperless Patient Education Can Save Millions
Author: David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA, CEO, VUCA Health
From Consumer Reports to peer reviewed journals, a number of studies have shown that less than 25% of patients actually read the education sheets they receive with their prescription medications—and far fewer actually understand the information those leaflets contain. While there is no hard data on the fate of the patient education sheets that go unread, it’s a safe bet that the majority of them wind up in the trash or shoved in a drawer.
What’s more, guidance from the FDA suggests that the average printed education leaflet provides only 50% of the minimum amount of information needed to enable a patient to properly use a medication. Add to that proprietary industry reports suggesting that 1 out of 3 prescriptions are picked up by someone other than the patient, and it becomes clear that we are in the midst of a medication education crisis.
Our system of sharing medication information is at best ineffective. At worst, it is broken.
The solution is to make patient education leaflets more accessible, comprehensive and understandable. The way to do that is to leverage the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology and replace printed educational sheets with properly scripted video versions that are accessible whenever and wherever the patient needs them.
It’s not as far-fetched as it may sound. A growing number of pharmacies have already adopted digital patient education tools like MedsOnCue, which provides on-demand prescription-specific videos patients can access whenever and whenever they need to get answers to such questions as correct dosage and side effects. Patients receive a link to the video via text message or email, and can view it on their smartphone, tablet or computer.
Yet even pharmacies that already have the tools in place to provide digital patient education continue to distribute the largely ignored printed versions. That is because of a misconception by pharmacies that patient education sheets are required by their state regulatory boards.
There is no such requirement. Though there is a federal requirement to provide printed Medication Guides, the same is not true for patient education leaflets.
That is why it makes good business sense to give patients the option to opt out of receiving printed information in favor of digital materials; much like pharmacies do today for child safety caps. It is one simple and patient-centered question that has the potential to save millions of dollars in wasted paper and toner for printed leaflets that go unread and are, at best, only partially understood.
Patients and the healthcare system as a whole will benefit from the shift to paperless. On-demand digital medication information improves health literacy. This, in turn, eliminates an estimated $100 billion to $300 billion in annual costs associated with non-adherence including avoidable hospitalizations, nursing home admissions and premature deaths.
What it will take is for pharmacies to join together and communicate with their state boards of pharmacy the need for a 21st Century alternative to an inefficient and broken information sharing process.
By uniting as a single voice to educate state boards of pharmacy about its benefits, we can make digital medication education the industry standard for safe medication use.