Timing is Everything: Reducing Prescription Abandonment Through Mobile Patient Engagement

G. Cameron Deemer, President at Dr. First shares the results of their recent research into first-fill abandonment rates

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Patients who don’t follow treatment plans not only put their health at risk but also drive increased economic costs of an estimated $290 billion in the United States annually1.

  • 125,000 unnecessary deaths are estimated annually due to inadequate adherence to treatment plans according to the National Council on Patient Information and Education
  • 24% of new medications are not filled according to a Harvard University study that analyzed e-prescription data for over 75,000 patients.
  • 69% of commercially insured patients did not fill their new prescriptions when they had to pay more than $250 out-of-pocket compared to just 11% who had an out-of-pocket cost of less than $30 according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science.


You might be interested in: our Patient Adherence Guidebook

We believe that one of the most effective ways to solve the problem of patient adherence is to address “first fill” abandonment during the critical window of time immediately after a doctor visit when the patient has been prescribed medications.  There are three significant issues that contribute to prescription abandonment that a mobile patient engagement platform can resolve:

  • Financial Barriers: To help lower the out-of-pocket cost of medications, patients should have access to insurance copay information, along with access to coupons from pharmaceutical brands, and discount prescription cards.
  • Lack of Clinical Information: To provide a more in-depth understanding to patients about the need for the prescription and treatment, patients benefit from having access to relevant educational materials.
  • Procrastination: To overcome the tendency to put off or forget to pick up a prescription, patients should have the ability to schedule Rx pickup at the pharmacy.


To test this theory, we engaged KMK Consulting, a life sciences market research firm, to perform a study measuring prescription first-fill abandonment rates. The study examined the potential impact of providing patients with real-time, personalized, and relevant information via their mobile devices versus the control group that did not receive any notifications. KMK Consulting tracked prescription fills for nearly half a million patients that had been sent electronic prescriptions.


The Results

The effect of connecting with patients at the right time is profound. Our results indicate that the more patient engagement there is, the higher the first fill rate. The study found an:

  • 11% Increase in fill rates for those who saw the notification but did not engage with the platform
  • 23% Reduction in first fill abandonment for patients who accessed the educational materials, received discount information, or scheduled a pickup at their pharmacy.
  • 60% of patients who received a notification engaged with it shortly after visiting their provider.
  • 97% of patients who engaged with the system were satisfied with the experience.

While the methods among mobile patient engagement platforms may vary, these tools must share one critical trait– the ability to reduce the costly problem of prescription abandonment by addressing financial barriers, clinical concerns, and procrastination by reaching the patient at the right time, in order to achieve the goal of minimizing prescription abandonment and most importantly saving lives.


Did you enjoy this article? Read more about how to optimize the journey of medicine from the lab to the patient in this report


  1. Thinking outside the pillbox: A system-wide approach to improving patient medication adherence for chronic disease, New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI), Aug 2009, nehi.net