Exciting, new developments in healthcare are on the horizon. They’ll impact everything from how we take prescription medications to the environment and caregiving. Innovation is being driven in part by the rising cost of drugs, an aging population of boomers and a shortage of long-term care facilities to accommodate them, notes Trevor Noye, senior vice president of medication adherence at Jones Healthcare Group.
Such pressures raise the stakes for finding ways to help older adults age well at home. “One of the ways we can get aging at home right is to improve levels of medication adherence,” he says. It remains a critical issue with 50 to 60 per cent of patients with chronic disease not taking their prescriptions correctly. Poor adherence can lead to worsening symptoms, hospitalization and at least 100,000 preventable deaths.
New technology in medication adherence packaging can help change those poor health outcomes due to prescriptions not being taken as prescribed. “If we think about the world today, we have a very simple blister pack, which gives you a clear visual representation of whether you’ve taken your pills at the appropriate time,” explains Noye. “It’s a great product, but maybe not for patients with dementia, or those with other cognitive impairments, etc. There is a need for something to fill the gap.”
The latest technology in connected packaging meets the need through the monitoring of blisters containing prescription medications organized by day and time to be taken. When the seal of the blister is broken, the action is registered on an electronic transmitter and can be sent to a caregiver, a clinician, or a pharmacist. Reminders may also be sent in advance of when a dose is due by text, via email or automated phone call.
The ability to track whether or not a patient is adhering to prescriptions on a dose-by-dose basis removes much of the guesswork about whether a drug is working. With accurate data available to inform their decisions, physicians can adjust the dosage or change medication as needed based on objective, real-time data.
The impact of new technology in medication adherence packaging is significant and will have a positive effect on patient wellness and many aspects of healthcare, studies have shown. Here’s a look at some of its big-picture implications and the future trends it is shaping:
1. More peace of mind for caregivers
For those taking care of their aging parents, knowing without a doubt they are taking their medications as prescribed is game-changing. Connected packaging can notify caregivers whether doses have been taken and when. For older adults living independently, such information is invaluable to their care teams. Providing accurate data will shed light on the efficacy of drug therapies – and not to mention, alleviate a common worry among the loved ones and caregivers of older people.
2. Making medication adherence packaging sustainable
Jones Healthcare has set a goal to ensure all of its medication adherence packaging is fully recyclable by the end of 2023. “We’re well on our way to doing that,” says Noye. “We’re looking at all the components we use in products. Jones is investigating wash-off adhesives and has already launched new blisters made with plant-based material sourced from sugar waste. It’s chemically equivalent to PET plastic and recyclable across most households in North America.”
The company is going a step beyond by consulting municipal recycling facilities and stakeholders throughout the supply chain to create packaging that will be recycled, not just in theory, but in practice.
3. More accurate clinical trials
Clinical trials are dependent on participants using the medication as recommended. Most will state they have, but it is challenging for drug companies to determine adherence with much certainty. With connected packaging, the reliance on human reporting is reduced, providing a clearer picture of a drug’s efficacy. “It’s one of the avenues we are looking at on a long-term basis,” confirms Noye. “We feel connected packaging can be instrumental in drug clinical trials.”
4. Easing the strain on healthcare systems
Medication non-adherence has serious implications on healthcare, straining already stretched resources. A 2022 University of Waterloo study, entitled Integration of a Smart Multidose Blister Package for Medication Intake, noted adherence to antihypertensive medications could result in 117,594 fewer emergency room visits and more than seven million fewer inpatient hospital stays annually. It also reported adherence to antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic and antihypertensive therapies can lead to a healthcare cost saving of $4.5 billion, $5 billion and $14 billion per year, respectively.
5. Pharmacies moving toward providing primary care
“What COVID has done globally, has moved pharmacists to the absolute front of the healthcare delivery system, because in many cases, they were the only places people could go during COVID and talk to any type of medication professional,” says Noye. The trend moving forward is an expansion of primary care services provided by pharmacies.
Larger regional drugstore chains in the U.S. have been announcing they’re moving deeper into the provision of primary care. “One of their goals in providing primary care services is to continue to improve medication adherence,” he notes. “Pharmacies recognize the cost benefits and positive role it can play in the healthcare system if they can achieve it.”
Produced with support from Jones Healthcare Group.