Health insurance is on the receiving end of myriad forces affecting industry dynamics. Moreover, thanks to costly experimental treatments, lifestyle and behavioral health concerns, and higher life expectancy, healthcare costs are climbing – which puts pressure on the bottom line for payers.
Now more than ever, health insurers are working to maintain profitability by mitigating escalating healthcare costs within a competitive scenario.
Patient adherence to prescribed medication significantly affects healthcare costs. In fact, the American Association of Diabetes Educators estimates that annual healthcare costs as a result of poor medication adherence total US$317 billion.
Non-adherence to prescribed medication is a serious problem because it squanders insurers’ payouts without affecting positive health outcomes. It’s no wonder insurers have prioritized intervention strategies to improve medication adherence among their members through the use of technology.
Let’s take a look at some ways health insurers are working to boost adherence.
Leveraging the internet of things (IoT)
Recent research reveals that members using digital health-activity trackers were 1.3 times more likely to adhere to their medication regimen for chronic conditions, and more and more insurers are encouraging policyholders to use health-activity trackers.
Early this year, Aetna launched Attain, a unique health experience designed in collaboration with Apple. Using an Apple Watch, the Attain app offers Aetna members personalized goals, tracks their daily activity levels, recommends healthy activities, and ultimately rewards them for taking these actions to improve their wellbeing.
Firms manufacturing activity trackers have also realized the importance of medication adherence and are enhancing their products to help members better. Apple is incorporating a new medication adherence app into the Apple Watch to encourage elderly consumers to take their prescribed meds.
Educating members and creating awareness about the importance of adhering to medication schedules go a long way to reduce the costs related to medication non-compliance.
Payers are increasingly coming up with various initiatives that enable members to understand the importance of drug adherence and tackle the barriers that prevent them from doing it.
Cigna’s CoachRX service provides members educational resources on how to improve adherence. The service also provides customers with a self-assessment to better understand the barriers for their adherence and enables members to get daily reminders through different ways such as cell phone text messages, voicemails, or emails, as per the convenience of the members.
Providing a guided user experience
More and more health insurers are offering a guided user experience to simplify members’ healthcare journey and to improve patient adherence according to the Top 10 Technology Trends in Health Insurance.
The more patients interact with their healthcare team via digital tools, the more likely they are to stick with their prescribed medication regimen – and that reduces re-admissions and as well as health insurers’ costs.
United Healthcare launched digital tools to help members navigate the healthcare ecosystem. These features include digital on-boarding where users can select health plans based on their health and cost preferences, integration of Apple Pay, and personalized video explanations to enable a clear understanding of policy benefits and coverage.
Improved adherence – a win-win
Improved medication adherence encourages positive outcomes for all parties in the healthcare ecosystem.
Here’s how: Patients who become healthy are less likely to be re-admitted to a provider, which allows resource allocation to other members requiring care. Moreover, payers experience significant cost savings, which improves their bottom line.
Thus, improving medication adherence is a critical step for payers seeking a stronghold in the future competitive landscape. In the months and years ahead insurers will evolve to become both a partner and a preventer, all the while continuing to be a payer, as illustrated in the 3P customer engagement model charted within the World Insurance Report (WIR) 2019.
 American Association of Diabetes Educators, “Fostering Medication Adherence,” https://www.diabeteseducator.org/docs/default-source/living-with-diabetes/tip-sheets/medication-taking/fostering_med_adherence.pdf, accessed June 2019.
 Fierce Healthcare, “Use of digital health activity trackers linked to better medication adherence: study,” Heather Landi, April 17, 2019, https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/tech/use-digital-health-activity-trackers-linked-to-better-medication-adherence-study.
 Aetna, “Aetna Announces Attain, a Personalized Well-being Experience,” January 29, 2019, https://news.aetna.com/news-releases/2019/01/aetna-announces-attain-a-personalized-well-being-experience-that-combines-health-history-with-apple-watch-information-to-empower-better-health.
 Business Insider, “Apple is releasing new healthcare features for older consumers,” Zoe Larock, May 8, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.in/Apple-is-releasing-new-healthcare-features-for-older-consumers/articleshow/69237805.cms.
 Cigna, “CoachRx,” https://cignaforhcp.cigna.com/web/public/resourcesGuest/!ut/p/z1/hU_LasMwEPyWHHSsd4NpanoLIc2DQE19iK1LkYUqq8iWWCl23a-vTXMpNGRvOy9mgEMJvBO90SIa1wk7_RVfvb_ustVyX-B-d8xf8JDj5rAsihQzhPM9AZ9ovHHr2c_vSY7AtXX1b5t1V6eZBk7qQ5Gi5EIT3MTowzNDhsMwJNo5bVUiXcvwP0vjQoTyrxKqacfT7R2PcO6NGqCY605BUDEMJqrAUDbSMyQV3IWkOpmaBI0MfSOoFXJ8uxLhCm2s6YwUNienSbThZEI0nU680GoO_xS9-Eq8o2hVTESACsG3JT7weky_t2m7Xix-AKRqNk8!/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/p0/IZ7_OG861HS0HGJPF0IP0CI1SS3085=CZ6_OG861HS0HGJPF0IP0CI1SS3080=LA0=Eref!QCPsitesQCPchcpQCPresourceLibraryQCPpharmacyResourcesQCPpharmCoachRx.page==/#Z7_OG861HS0HGJPF0IP0CI1SS3085, accessed June 2019.
 UnitedHealth Group, “UnitedHealthcare Introduces New Digital Health Resources for 2018, Including Apple Pay for Consumers with Health Savings Accounts,” January 12, 2018, https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/newsroom/2018/0112newdigitalhealthresources.html.