Merck, Northwestern design study to undertake patient confusion
By Mia Burns (email@example.com)
In the pursuit to standardize confusing prescription instructions, Merck & Co. and Northwestern University, Walgreens, Alliance of Chicago community health centers have initiated a new and collaborative big data study to evaluate how doctors and pharmacies guide patients on medications, and to ultimately improve medication adherence.
The study will test a new and simplified way for doctors to write prescriptions and pharmacists to interpret instructions on prescription medication labels. If the test program in Chicago proves successful, it could become the basis for a new national standard for how prescription labels are written.
Patients who take multiple medications may not understand how their physicians have prescribed them, according to Northwestern research. For this new study, the researchers plan to address this problem, says Michael Wolf, PhD, MPH, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, project lead. “We deliver via electronic health records and patient education materials to help patients initiate medication questions, and physician counseling support materials,” he told Med Ad News Daily. “A lot of people have beliefs around safety, so it will be important for us to let them know when they should or should not take medicines together.”
The team has also factored in the difficulties that can occur with e-prescribing systems. “In fact, much of our study is about the implementation of patient friendly and evidence-based prescribing to support adherence, and learning if there are any voltage drops in our approach if e-prescribing or workflow get in the way,” Dr. Wolf told Med Ad News Daily. “We want a practical, effective, but sustainable solution!”
Dr. Wolf and his team want to learn if prescribing medications at four standard intervals—morning, noon, evening, and at bedtime—will improve patient adherence. The researchers call this the Universal Medication Schedule, or UMS, and the study’s population will be type 2 diabetes patients. “This is a highly prevalent patient group in community health centers that often have complex drug regimens,” Dr. Wolf told Med Ad News Daily. “If we improve their safe use and adherence to prescribed medication, we plausibly could see a measurable difference in health outcomes.” Dr. Sachin Jain, chief medical information and innovation officer of Merck also told Med Ad News Daily, “Patients with diabetes are an important target population because they commonly take several medications -- and the consequence of medication errors and non-adherence can be dire for them as a long-haul. We are in real need of solutions that will make taking medications simpler. Merck’s collaboration with Northwestern and Walgreens could be a game-changer for all patients with complex medication regimens.”
The duration of the study is two and a half years, according to Dr. Wolf, and as to whether or not he and his team would repeat this study with another chronic ailment, he told Med Ad News Daily, “A great idea - all patients with varying conditions we propose would benefit, and this case study among individuals with diabetes should in fact be translated for other chronic disease states.”
At the end of 2014, the team expects to roll out findings on efficacy and again the following year as the work progresses, according to Dr. Wolf. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that state boards of pharmacy are engaged and tracking the study as they have the most skin in the game for prescription labeling,” he told Med Ad News Daily. “But we hope Walgreens and other pharmacy stores will consider the evidence and weigh in on what it would take for voluntary adoption.”
Posted: October 2013