When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was imperative to protect our most vulnerable populations, and the need to provide healthcare at home to keep patients safe, out of pharmacy lines and socially-distanced was demonstrated immediately.

Fortunately, at-home medication management is an increasingly effective solution. The pandemic highlighted how the industry can overcome barriers to at-home medication adherence, and how we can take it one step further with easy to understand pre-sorted prescription packs and delivery to ensure medication accuracy, adherence and safety for vulnerable patients always.

Eliminating medication non-adherence with smart packaging

Vulnerable populations faced unique healthcare barriers when the pandemic hit, making it challenging to stay at home. With older adults taking on average between six and eight medications daily, the pharmacy is a frequent stop for these patients to pick-up their medications and receive counseling. However, even with the best counseling, taking multiple medications daily can lead to confusion, and ultimately medication errors and costly health outcomes. 

All too often, medication non-adherence happens inadvertently because a patient or their caregiver is simply confused. Confused by the number of medications, how and when medications should be taken, and generally overwhelmed by the potentially complicated nature of their administration schedule.

In comes smart packaging and at-home delivery. Smart packaging is designed to simplify and streamline medication administration so patients and caregivers can successfully and confidently manage their medication regimens. Using state-of-the-art automation and artificial intelligence in the pharmacy, pharmacists can provide customized medication packaging to aid in medication adherence, and deliver 28-day medication cycles to patients in their home.

Patient medications are packaged in color-coded, smart labeled boxes personalized for each individual participant. Within each box, a participant’s medications are pre-sorted in pouches by the time of day to be taken. These pouches come in sequential, tear-off rolls for optimal ease in administration, eliminating confusion for the patient or their caregiver.

Customization across patient populations

Each patient’s needs and wants are different, and automation and smart packaging can accommodate these patient populations. For example, other proactive medication adherence packaging measures can include simple instructions, a robust visual communication system, and language customization. Ideally, packaging content is written at a fifth-grade reading level and is accompanied by pictures, symbols and colors to reinforce comprehension and literacy. Customized physical medication packaging and calendars are also available for different languages, and culturally sensitive health resources are translated for participants in various different languages.

Medication accuracy is an ongoing concern both at home and in-center. Pharmacies using automation and artificial intelligence technology to fully automate packaging provides verifiable accuracy measures. Every adherence pouch and package undergoes infrared scanning and imaging to verify the accuracy of its contents, ensuring correctness at the source.

Prioritizing patients with automation

In addition to keeping vulnerable populations out of settings where the potential for illness is high, including the pharmacy, remaining in the home can also provide a strong sense of comfort and support mental well-being, so long as an individual is not isolated. The pandemic reinforced the importance of regular contact with family, friends and caregivers. The autonomy afforded by independent living can help individuals maintain their self-confidence, self-sufficiency and dignity. So how do pharmacies most effectively support this population with at-home care?

With vulnerable individuals living in both urban and rural areas, pharmacy utilization can vary dramatically. Depending on the pharmacy’s volume, pharmacists come into contact with hundreds to thousands of prescriptions per day, and when using traditional prescription packaging methods, require hundreds of hours of manpower. Automating this process can dramatically expedite the packaging and verification process, as well as make it safer. Technology like multidose packaging and pouch verification machines can accomplish packing tasks automatically, reducing touches and risks of viral spread. Through automation and at-home delivery, pharmacies can expand their customer base, keep vulnerable populations at home and adherent, and support their bottom lines.

Benefits beyond medication adherence

Medication adherence programs are a proven solution for the vulnerable populations living at home, and are a good fit for other at-risk models of care. Using personalized packing and delivery can ensure both the patient and caregiver are taken care of with their medication needs, keeping the most fragile patients safe, healthy, and adherent. Not only can this type of technology keep patients at home, it can reduce hospital admissions, and save on total spending in the healthcare system.

Bob Rowland is CEO of Grane Rx, a leading senior pharmacy care and medication management provider for PACE organizations, skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care providers.