Medication adherence is often low for people who are transitioning out of a hospital setting. Such patients may have received a starter dose during a visit to an emergency room or an overnight hospital stay but fail to pick up medication in a pharmacy after that.
“It’s a key pain point. There can be as much as a 50% drop off,” said Ron Lacy, VP Of products and innovation at UBC.
To optimize the medication adherence related to new prescriptions of an approved product, UBC worked with health IT firm DrFirst. In addition, the companies worked together to use software for patient support services related to the drug.
DrFirst has developed an electronic prescription writing platform connected to leading EMR systems.
UBC initially planned to partner directly with the healthcare system to address the issue of low medication adherence. In the early days of the pandemic, the company had a plan to send text messages to patients transitioning out of a hospital environment. “But the focus and energy at that time were all about responding to the pandemic so that we couldn’t move that forward,” Lacy said.
The company then changed gears, deciding to use DrFirst’s e-prescribing technology to notify patients. “We have had a relationship with DrFirst for different services over the years. We’ve used them before on clinical trial messaging,” Lacy noted. “That’s kind of where the idea came from. We wondered, ‘Can I do something similar to what we’ve done with a clinical trial at a patient-access site?'”
The companies worked together to create a system that would create a call-to-action for patients to opt into a virtual assistant that includes messaging and patient support.
Patients who enrolled in the system and used the virtual assistant received a series of programmed conversations for two months. The virtual discussions were designed to educate, motivate and remind patients of important events, including prescription pick-ups.
“The virtual assistant involves a conversation with a scripted bot,” Lacy said. “It’s not an AI bot.”
Whereas the banking industry, for instance, uses AI bots that optimize answers based on what users type, a scripted bot, in this example, provides a scripted conversation that gives users a choice of how to engage with it.
“So, for example, one of the conversations we focused on was patient education around this disease state,” Lacy said.
The virtual assistant also helps patients navigate educational materials related to copays and other topics. “Based on how the patient answered, we can guide them through those educational materials,” Lacy said.
The system proved successful at improving patient adherence. A quarter of patients indicated they picked up their medication after receiving virtual assistant reminders. A total of 17% of patients responded directly to the refill reminder.
In addition, 95% of patients indicated that they found the virtual assistant’s updates and education programs helpful.
The feedback has been “overwhelmingly consistent over the 20,000-plus conversations we’ve had,” Lacy said.