Why it Pays to Reward  People to Take their Medicine

By Donna Fuscaldo Features FOXBusiness

Taking your medication can give you more than improved health it can also get you DVDs, sporting goods and clothing. 

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Attempting to tackle the $290 billion problem of consumers not taking their medication properly, website HealthPrize is rewarding users with points when they adhere to their prescription drugs guidelines. Just like loyalty programs offered by airlines and banks, users can redeem their points in the Healthprize Internet mall.

In addition to long-term and added health problems, non-adherence to prescription drugs costs the country more than $290 billion a year. The consequences become more acute in patients suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma or a heart conditios--patients that tend to have more complex medicine regimes.

“A lot of people are attacking the problem with reminders and cost reductions [of the drugs], but it doesn’t go to the root of the problem that people stop refilling,” says Katrina Firlik, chief medical officer and co-founder of HealthPrize. She explains one of the leading reasons people don’t refill their medications is because they don’t see the value or a tangible benefit.

“It’s the same reason people don’t save for retirement,” says Firlik. “It’s hard to save at 30 for something in their 70s. It’s the same thing with medication.”

To provide some value for long-term medical obedience, HealthPrize teamed up with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers to reward consumers when they take their medication and refill a prescription on schedule. Every time participating members tells HealthPrize they took or refilled their medicine they get immediate points that they accumulate and redeem for products from participating retailers.

Points are also given every time a user takes a weekly quiz or survey, or "opens" the daily educational "fortune cookie". “They get immediate gratification. They get something out of their medication,” says Firlik.

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While members are asked to self-report when they take their medicine, the information is verified via the pharmacy or pharmacy benefits managers. “Timely refills is the name of the game in adherence,” says Firlik.

Members can earn points daily but will be cut off from earning more points if their medication goes unfilled. Currently, HealthPrize has only been rolled out to patients taking acne drugs and people taking asthma medicine on a small scale. It will be announcing a deal with a large pharmacy benefits manager in September for patients taking medicine for diabetes. A hypertension pilot with a pharmaceutical company is launching in September.

To make the website more interactive in addition to daily reporting, members can earn extra points by taking quizzes about their disease. To further motivate people, HealthPrize doesn’t disclose how many points users will ear n for taking their medication. “The fear of regret is a powerful motivator,” says Firlik.

While HealthPrize won’t have adherence results until early next year, they report slightly more than 75% of the participants in the asthma trial self-reported each day for six months of the trial. Users logged in 7.7 times per week on average, and 17.8% of users were categorized as in-active.

Firlik says users in the asthma pilot are more engaged and report the site makes their outlook better for the chronic disease. “To really move the needle you have to give immediate results and make it fun. That’s what’s lacking in solutions to date.”