If you thought the FreeCreditReport.com jingle was catchy, just imagine the one they are going to come up with for your “medication report.” The same company that assesses credit scores, FICO, has devised a way to track and predict medication usage, according to an article published in The New York Times.
Similarly to credit ratings, FICO assigns a number (the FICO Medication Adherence Score) based upon variable factors ranging from employment status, age, sex and diagnosis, among others. The data used to devise the numbers comes from an anonymous sample of over 600,000 patients with diabetes, heart disease and asthma. FICO then tracked the patterns of how those patients filled and refilled their prescriptions.
“We started thinking about how consumers behave as patients,” Mark Greene, the chief executive of FICO, told the New York Times. “The problem, from a math standpoint, is not all that different from banking and other industries.”
The scores range from 0-500, with the lower the score indicating the greater the risk. Those scoring 400 and above are more likely to be compliant with their doctors orders, while those scoring below 200 are at a higher risk and may need more instruction and follow up from their medical providers.
It was found that those who had steady employment and housing were more likely to adhere to their medication orders. Those at highest risk for non-compliance were on either end of the age spectrum with young adults, particularly college student and those over the age of 80 garnering red flags. Although women were more likely to seek medical advice, it came as a big surprise to FICO to find that they were less likely to follow doctor’s orders.
How does your score affect you?
What does a medication adherence score have to do with anything? Perhaps this is a good way for doctors to monitor their patients’ prescription habits. Just like a credit score can help a lending company predict a consumer who may be more likely to default on a loan, the medication score can help predict when a patient may not be compliant with their medications. This is vital in an age where people are trying to maintain their independence and health and delay entering a nursing home or assisted living for as long as possible. These values may prove to be useful as CMS and many hospital systems are tracking the number of readmissions to hospitals for such chronic diseases as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Diabetes. Often, it is medication non-compliance which brings on an exacerbation or complication of these types of diseases. With some sort of predictor established, patients at greatest risk can be monitored more closely.
In fact, FICO found that patients who had regular communication with their care providers were more likely to adhere to the regimen prescribed to them. Some insurance companies have already begun such models, for example Geisinger Health Plan’s Medical Home. The Central Pennsylvania-based insurance plan and nationally recognized hospital system has established a protocol for patients who have chronic diseases or who have been discharged from an inpatient hospital stay or nursing home. A registered nurse manager will follow with the patient for a minimum of six weeks to make sure they are following doctors orders and to recognize any signs of relapse. The use of the FICO score may help streamline the process of identifying those who need to be monitored.
The Future of FICO
FICO is anticipating that there will be 2-3 million people assigned the newly created scores by the end of 2011. Within 12 months they are hoping that nearly 10 million scores will be generated and utilized in disease management programs. The hope is that patient compliance will increase with more awareness and communication programs being established to mentor patients. Nancy Burkholder, vice president of health policy for the National Consumers League, believes raising awareness of the importance of taking medication correctly is the most important factor in the potential success of the FICO medication adherence score. The group started a three-year program to help promote communication awareness called Script Your Future.
The next time you hear your FICO score, it may not be when you’re applying for a vehicle loan or a credit card, but rather when waiting to see your doctor. Will it have a real-world effect? That’s yet to be seen. If you have a lower score, your doctors may be more aggressive in making sure you are following their orders, perhaps requiring more follow up visits. On the flipside, if you have a higher score, doctors could become more complacent with your care. Regardless of your score, the best course of action, whether young or old, rich or poor is to keep the lines of communication open and follow the doctor’s orders.
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