Healthcare News & Insights

Improving prescription abandonment with the right information at the right time

Prescriptions are just one part of improving patients’ health. In this guest post G. Cameron Deemer, president of a technology company that connects people at patient care touchpoints, shows how patient engagement can reduce prescription abandonment.


Medicines can’t help patients if they don’t take them – and not taking needed medications can cause serious harm, even death. While this might seem like common sense, data shows that many patients don’t follow through with their treatment plans. Approximately half of medications aren’t taken as prescribed, and between 20% to 30% of new prescriptions are never even filled, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of the most effective ways to increase “first fill” rates and reduce prescription abandonment is to improve patient engagement at the point of prescribing or with messages delivered shortly after. For example, when doctors have the information they need to discuss medication benefits, therapeutic alternatives and out-of-pocket costs with their patients, they can increase the likelihood that prescriptions will be picked up quickly and used as directed.

This information, delivered to the prescriber and the patient at the right time, can address the top three reasons why consumers may not pick up first-fill prescriptions:

1. High out-of-pocket medication costs

When out-of-pocket expenses were more than $250, nearly 70% of patients with commercial insurance didn’t start therapy, according to a study by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. In contrast, the study found when out-of-pocket costs were less than $30, only 11% of patients didn’t start therapy. Discussing the costs, affordable alternatives, and providing access to coupons and discount cards can help patients avoid financial barriers to medication adherence.

2. Lack of patient education

Patients don’t always understand the health risks of not taking their prescribed medications, such as someone with cardiovascular disease being at higher risk of stroke, kidney failure or even death. Educational materials – provided during the healthcare visit or shortly afterward – can help patients better understand the need for their prescribed medications, as well as potential side effects.

3. Procrastination

Receiving messages shortly after the healthcare visit helps patients remember to pick up their medications in case they have forgotten – or procrastinated.

The impact of engagement on first-fill prescription rates

To better understand how providing patients with the right information at the right time could impact first-fill prescription rates a life sciences research firm studied the issue. The researchers evaluated what happened to abandonment rates when nearly half a million patients received information about their prescriptions on their mobile devices versus those who didn’t.

The impact on first-fill rates was eye-opening:

  • fill rates rose 11% for patients who received notifications
  • fill rates rose 20% for patients who engaged with the mobile tool
  • 60% of patients who received a notification engaged with the message shortly after visiting their physicians, and
  • 97% of patients who engaged with the system were satisfied with the experience.

The results demonstrate that patient engagement on mobile devices can significantly improve prescription fill rates and help patients overcome some of the biggest barriers to medication adherence. Reaching the patient with the right information at the right time can significantly reduce financial costs, improve patient outcomes and even save lives.

G. Cameron Deemer is president at DrFirst, headquartered in Rockville, MD. DrFirst develops pioneering technology, support and services that connect people at every touchpoint of patient care.

KMK Consulting is a life sciences research firm.


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