Patient Portals and Medication Adherence

by | Nov 7, 2013 | Patient Engagement

Patient Portals are becoming the cancer clinics “right arm” in supporting their efforts to regularly educate and communicate with their patients between clinic visits. With this new communication vehicle, there is an opportunity to improve medication adherence by Image of pill boxcommunicating more regularly with patients and requesting that patients provide data back on when they take their medications.  This need has become even more prevalent due to the increasing number of available oral agents, as non-adherence to medications can have profound clinical consequences and is a growing concern for healthcare professionals managing cancer patients.

Several factors can contribute to non-adherence in patients and understanding the factors and potential barriers that affect patient adherence can help manufacturers develop specific strategies to support patient education and adherence in this new era of technology via patient portals. To help patient’s get the best possible outcome requires: education, communication, adherence, ongoing monitoring and follow-up and a patient’s portal becomes the warehouse for all of these tactics.

While many patients might prefer the convenience of oral medications, the self-administration of oral chemotherapeutic agents, in itself, presents its own challenges. For example, self –administration may increase the risk of medication errors and possibly compromise the overall effectiveness of the treatment regimen. To prevent unwanted toxicities and keep therapeutic misadventures at bay, providers and patients need to understand the mechanisms of action and potential drug/drug interactions associated with these oral agents, as well as have a communication vehicle available to regularly communicate between visits.

Patient portals can provide that communication vehicle and support medication adherence by providing tools for the provider and patient. Daily health journals, oral templates and reminder emails or text messages to a patient’s phone are just a few ways this can happen. Clinicians can then take the necessary steps to prevent problems and maximize the efficacy of oral chemotherapeutic agents.

Not only are these technology features “cutting edge” but they are part of the new healthcare reform initiatives or HITECH Meaningful Use to better engage the patient. These new initiatives are about giving patients electronic access to their personal health information and personalized patient education.

Clinics are rapidly adopting patient portals to meet these new initiatives (which are required by October 2014) and portals are transforming the way providers and patients interact. As a leader in the oncology patient portal space, we hear this all the time. However, we’d like to share an example of this is from Michiana Hematology Oncology, an established practice with 15 physicians in South Bend, Indiana. Their decision to adopt a patient portal in 2011 was initially driven by the required “Meaningful Use” objectives. However, another important reason was that Michiana is very passionate about giving patients electronic access to their “patient specific” education/medication adherence materials.

“Our portal delivers education/adherence materials directly to our patients based on where they are in their cancer journey,” said Kim Woofter, CEO.  “Patients receive clinic and manufacturer materials specific to their diagnosis and medications and the education module allows our patients to receive the right information, at the right time, from their providers.”  Additionally, the portal provides Michiana a safe and secure environment to keep patients educated on their specific cancer treatment.  “The manufacturer product specific materials educate the patients as it relates to their treatment, but it also allows us to free up valuable space and saves on printing costs,” said Kim. “I tell my manufacturer representatives to digitize their materials and work with my portal to ensure patients receive the materials when it matters most.”

In summary, patient portals are becoming critical in supporting clinic efforts to regularly educate and communicate with their patients between clinic visits. Manufacturers can support the clinics efforts by creating solutions that can be placed on a portal that helps improves patient adherence to medication and possibly lead to improved patient outcomes.