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Address Prescription Abandonment by Focusing at These 3 Patient Touchpoints

Tochi Yaba
March 20, 2024
Address Prescription Abandonment by Focusing at These 3 Patient Touchpoints

Prescription abandonment refers to a situation where a patient does not fulfill or pick up their prescribed medication from the pharmacy after a prescriber has issued the prescription. Prescription abandonment is a public health concern that contributes to an increase in total healthcare costs. According to an August 2020 article by IQVIA, 9% of all new prescriptions were abandoned at retail pharmacies in 2019.

It’s a significant contributor to medication non-adherence, which profoundly impacts stakeholders within the healthcare system, including providers, pharmacies, payers, and patients themselves. In simple terms, prescription abandonment leads to adverse health consequences for the patient and adds to the ever-rising cost of healthcare.

Broadly speaking, prescription abandonment can occur in three areas along a pharmacy patient’s journey: pre-pharmacy visit, at the point of sale, and post-point of sale. Taking a closer look at a pharmacy patient’s journey will help determine effective ways to combat prescription abandonment.

In our view, the two major determinants of prescription abandonment are cost and the level of pharmacy-patient engagement. Addressing prescription abandonment requires a detailed examination of the path of a pharmacy patient’s journey and proactive resolution of potential challenges that may arise. To combat prescription abandonment, pharmacies need to collaborate with patients to find solutions that address these potential challenges.

Pre-pharmacy Visit

In the era of electronic prescribing, many patients have limited knowledge about their prescribed medication. The use of digital onboarding by the pharmacy provides a personalized, convenient, and efficient means of engaging the patient in the prescription dispensing process. The patient becomes aware of the medication and their out-of-pocket expense. If an available copay card exists and the patient qualifies for its use, the patient receives the necessary information digitally to obtain the copay card. These types of engagement minimize communication gaps, reduce the likelihood of any unforeseen issues during dispensing, and empower the patient to feel involved in the overall medication procurement process, thereby decreasing the likelihood of prescription abandonment.

At the Point of Sale

When a patient abandons or rejects a filled prescription at the pharmacy, it is termed a “reversal”. Cost is often the leading cause of reversals at the pharmacy. The most effective way to mitigate potential sticker shock at the point of sale is to proactively engage the patient throughout the process using robust omnichannel engagement methods. Issues such as high copays or lack of coverage should be addressed proactively prior to pick-up. Utilizing technology to explore better pricing, such as copay card availability for brand drugs and transparent pharmacy-induced cash pricing mechanisms, can help alleviate some of the cost related abandonment.  Other alternatives, like contacting the prescriber to explore more affordable therapeutic options, are also valuable, but the patient must be kept informed through the process via digital engagement.

Post Point of sale

In many cases, patients fill the initial prescription but may not fill subsequent refills or may do so inconsistently, not adhering to medication instructions. Factors such as forgetfulness, lack of education, perceived adverse effects, perceived lack of improvement, cost, and others have been identified here. Once again, proactive patient engagement through the patient’s preferred channels is crucial. The reason is that the level of patient-pharmacy engagement is directly correlated with prescription abandonment rates. Using digital engagement to personalize refill and pick-up reminders, and providing digital payment and delivery options is immensely helpful in decreasing prescription abandonment.

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