Data Needed to Position Packaging as Innovation

Reigning in healthcare costs is going to take more than cutting. According to the NEHI Innovation Barometer, a survey sponsored by NEHI in partnership with Ernst & Young, a majority of opinion leaders (78%) believe that “healthcare costs can be controlled if there are new, innovative ways to be more efficient in delivering health care services.” These respondents chose this option over controlling costs if “cuts are made and strict spending budgets are required.” And more than half (54%) stated that they support government actions to improve the overall U.S. health care system, even if they increase the federal deficit in the short term.

Sounds like an opportunity for compliance-enhancing packaging to me. But for such packaging to garner wide support, it seems more data is needed.

At RxAdherence 2012 in March, organized by the Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council (HCPC), speakers cited the significant expenses associated with patient noncompliance and the need for new approaches. “Adherence is a complex behavior, and it is the largest health issue going on right now,” said Hayden Bosworth, associate director, Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, Durham Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. (He also is Research Professor, Department of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing, Duke University Medical Center.) “Patients need interventions that work,” he added.

“Prescription adherence should be the Holy Grail in healthcare,” said speaker Thomas Bellavia, MD, associate professor of medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). “The 2009 Drug Trend report by Express Scripts identified wasteful spending, and medication adherence is at the crux of the issue.”

Current solutions to encourage compliance do not seem to be making an impact. Larry Bostian, vice president, development, for the National Consumers League (NCL), cited its recent survey in which 61% of patients reported that they are never asked by pharmacists about any problems taking medications. NCL is one year into its “Script Your Future” national medication adherence campaign. Doctors are better at asking, but they are “bad at listening,” he adds.

Packaging is “good” and “may help,” Bosworth told the audience, but “more data is needed on its efficacy.” He encouraged packaging advocates to support studies with randomization, comparisons, and peer reviews.

In addition, adherence solutions need more reach. “Reminder devices are nice and they work, but they are hard to deliver to the masses,” said Rob Blazek, senior director, business development and network strategies, Rx EDGE. “We need an integrated approach to solve the issue.”

Blazek told the audience to “target the right patient population and reach them as early as possible in their regimens. Inspire and motivate to make the information matter, which will help patients to buy into what they need to do. And integrate overall brand messaging using a variety of tools.”

Payment will be a challenge, however. “Retailers don’t want to pay for anything,” said Blazek. “They are starting to see that adherence is a big issue and a huge opportunity. But if it is going to be successful, it will have to be manufacturer-provided compliance packaging.”

John Bitner, president of Bitner Associates Inc., told the audience that the “skill, talent, and resources to evolve packaging into a magical compliance tool is in the room. I would like to see it activated. The challenge is out there.”

This week, NEHI is gathering health experts such as FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Chairman of the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System Dr. David Blumenthal, and advisors from the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, at the 2012 NEHI Innovation Conference in Boston.

Innovations in compliance packaging may not quite reach the heights of a presidential debate this election, but we hope you will consider looking into packaging’s potential. And if you have a solution that is already working, consider sharing your data. Innovations are desperately needed to advance the state of the U.S. healthcare system, and packaging is a tangible, lasting solution that patients can interact with long after they have left the doctor’s office or pharmacy.

This article was originally published as the April 27, 2012, ePackage Newsletter.

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