Boost Medication Adherence Via the EHR

Brand managers’ efforts to improve medication adherence are typically anchored by copay support programming, and rightly so; reducing patients’ out-of-pocket costs has been linked to higher persistence, faster speed to fill, and more total fills.1 But crafting an offer and printing cards is just the beginning point in helping patients overcome high drug copays. To really boost the odds of initial fill and get traction in today’s marketplace, smart marketers are increasingly using EHR-based communications to strengthen the connection between a brand’s copay offer and the prescribing event.

Houston, We Have a Problem

It’s easy to assume that prescribers diligently search their sample closets to find your copay starter kit, carefully explain the program to patients, and dutifully ensure that patients leave the office with all the crucial documentation. Yet time-pressed HCPs sometimes fail to follow the plan exactly as you’ve laid it out. What’s more, unless prescribers know for sure they have your copay kit on hand, many will simply choose another brand. We asked 559 MD/DO/NP/PA copay-program users this question: “When choosing between branded medications, how often do you choose a different brand than your brand of choice because you are not certain you have a copay card/coupon on hand for the brand of choice? Surprisingly, 62% of respondents said they do so at least a few times a year, and 22% do so at least weekly. In the end, too many patients leave the clinic with their drug-cost challenges inadequately addressed.

So, is there no hope? Should we simply accept the fact that prescriber-initiated adherence-focused conversations with patients happen only on a hit-and-miss basis? Far from it. The truth is, brand teams can take active steps to stimulate and strengthen these vital conversations. What’s more, these steps are welcomed by prescribers and patients alike. And best of all, they bolster medication adherence.

Brands can successfully intervene to support adherence-focused conversations between prescriber and patient.

Today’s technology provides significant opportunities for brand teams to inspire and provision adherence-boosting communication between prescriber and patient. For example, brands can send timely messages to prescribers regarding drug options, managed care coverage, copay support, and more. These messages can be sent through traditional message channels that are outside the prescribing workflow such as email, websites, and direct mail, as well as through emerging in-workflow channels such as in-EHR messaging.

In-workflow, EHR-delivered brand messages, copay offers, and educational materials can be particularly valuable since they engage prescribers in real time as they make brand choices in the EHR application. Figure 1 shows how the copay offer for a selected brand (in this case, fictitious Melavin) can be displayed in the HCP’s e-prescribing screen. When the HCP finalizes the e-prescription and enables the copay assistance offer, all necessary copay claim adjudication information is delivered electronically to the pharmacy. In addition, copay-program material and adherence-focused patient-directed messaging can be generated within the EHR, printed, and given to patients by prescribers at the point of care, motivating patients to fill their prescription (see B&W inset in Figure 1). In a recent analysis of more than 130 programs, this type of prescriber-delivered messaging generated an average lift in new-prescription fill rate of nearly 5%. These materials can also be delivered to patients via email or through an EHR-based patient portal.

But Do Prescribers and Patients Really Want this Type of Intervention?

Brand teams are sensitive to the risk of stakeholder overload, so it’s important to note that not only is in-EHR messaging effective, it is also encouraged by prescribers and patients alike. As shown in Figure 2, we conducted a June 2017 survey of 558 prescribers showing that almost 90% of respondents support in-EHR notification of copay offers and direct links to patient-ready copay-program material. And in a recent survey of more than 1,000 patients and caregivers (Figure 3), 85% of respondents said that receiving printed communication from their prescriber would be valuable. Moreover, 75% of patients would think better of their HCP after receiving such support.

Similarly, adherence-supportive messages can be delivered to pharmacists within the EHR pharmacy workflow, then printed and given to patients at the pharmacy window, encouraging healthy behaviors and improving adherence. A recent analysis of more than 240 programs using this type of messaging showed a meaningful increase in consumption.

Final Thoughts

In today’s marketplace, we need to look at the EHR as a critical element of copay program delivery. As a marketer, it’s important to acknowledge that 1) you have the ability to fortify the face-to-face interaction between HCPs and patients, and 2) you can and should use the EHR to inspire and provision this vital communication. These actions can lift your new-prescription fill rate, increase brand loyalty, and boost overall consumption. We can and should use this powerful tool to see to it that all patients receive the affordability and educational support they need to get on and stay on their medications.


1. Ratliff R. “Reduce Patient Out-of-pocket Costs.” PM360. June 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017.

  • Rick Ratliff

    Rick Ratliff is President of Network Services at ConnectiveRx. Rick heads ConnectiveRx, a company that connects prescribers, pharmacists, and consumers to simplify how people get and stay on medications by providing information, savings, and access to medications people need.