UPMC tackles drug nonadherence, achieving massive clinical and financial ROI

The problem of non-adherence to drug therapy is well documented. In U.S.A. Nearly 30% of all prescriptions are never filled at a pharmacy, and an estimated 18 million people cannot afford drugs.


Studies have shown that prescriptions with a copay of $50 or more are nearly four times more likely to be abandoned than prescriptions with lower out-of-pocket costs.

Furthermore, nearly 16% of readmissions were due to drug-related concerns, with nearly 40% of them potentially preventable.

UPMC is looking for innovative strategies to address issues related to both medication adherence and readmission, while leveraging the clinical strengths of pharmacies and streamlining operations.

“Patient-centric care revolves around solutions that are easy to use and make connections easy for them,” said Rebecca Taylor, PharmD, senior director of pharmacy at UPMC. “We wanted something simple and accessible to most people.

“It’s been estimated that more than 90% of the population has access to a phone for text messaging, so we knew that using that route could be a potential solution,” she added.


UPMC Enterprises built a suite of technology and deployed it on the UPMC Health System. It is a pharmacy patient management platform that helps identify and prioritize patients at risk of non-adherence.

From there, an AI-driven virtual assistant will contact the patient via SMS to engage them throughout the medication journey (before initial medication collection, between refills, assistance with refills, and more). that too). Recently, health IT provider To Health purchased pharmaceutical technology developed by UPMC.

“UPMC pharmaceutical experts gave their clinical insights into what makes the product a success, and the engineers at UPMC Pharmaceuticals worked to bring this solution to life.”

Kathryn Heffernan, UPMC Enterprise

“UPMC Retail Pharmacy Network partnered with UPMC Enterprises, the innovation and commercialization arm of UPMC, to find support services,” said Kathryn Heffernan, director of product management for UPMC Enterprises. technology to solve some of these problems.

She continued: “The teams collaborated to understand more about the problem, the competitive landscape, and the potential value of a solution before making the decision to build a minimum viable product of the management platform. pharmacy and chatbot respectively for the pilot”. “UPMC pharmaceutical experts gave their clinical insights into what makes the product a success, and the engineers at UPMC Pharmaceuticals worked to bring this solution to life.”


Teams start small, collaborating with select clinics and hospitals to demonstrate value and ensure smooth integration with existing processes and workflows.

“The product was initially used to support inpatient medication at our flagship hospital, UPMC Presbyterian, and was quickly expanded to other locations after being well received, ‘ Heffernan recalled. “The leadership of UPMC Pharmacy and UPMC Enterprises then explored expansion into strategic use cases and additional populations, including staff and select clinics.

“The platform is built as an independent entity,” she continued. “It leverages patient data after signing up for the service. With this data, the platform creates and schedules automated follow-ups from the virtual assistant chatbot.”

Patients receive automated SMS messages or calls to assess compliance and satisfaction, and identify other barriers to obtaining prescriptions or using them correctly. When an issue is discovered based on patient feedback or there is a problem reaching the patient, a member of the pharmacy support team including the pharmacist and pharmacy technician will intervene to resolve the issue. current topic.


The technology-enabled platform has proven significant value at UPMC.

“We saw effects in clinical outcomes, medication adherence, patient satisfaction, and staff effectiveness,” Heffernan reports. “Notably, we’ve seen a two-fold increase in on-time refill rates and an average of 80% of patients reporting satisfaction with the program.

“The future is bright for these technologies to interact with patients their way.”

Rebecca Taylor, PharmD, UPMC

“We are particularly proud of the impact this service has had on re-enrollment,” she added. A retrospective study of over 30,000 patients found that those who interacted with chatbots and services were 32% less likely to be hospitalized again after 7 days and 16 days less likely to be hospitalized again. %.”


Heffernan advises service delivery organizations to start with a small population or vendor site to demonstrate the model and ensure the technology delivers the results one wants while at the same time being relevant to the needs of the customer. existing workflow.

“From there, building relationships with leading suppliers and continuously assessing business value can help inform expanded channels,” she continued.

Keep it simple and accessible, advises Taylor.

“The future is bright for these technologies to interact with patients their way,” she concludes. “I’ve seen success embedding technology with EHRs in other organizations – so I always encourage keeping it as simple as possible for patients and their caregivers.”

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