Medication adherence is well known as a lingering problem for healthcare providers, insurers and, not least of all, manufacturers, and while many approaches (including straight-up financial incentives) have been tried, little has “moved the dial significantly,” according to Tom Kottler, CEO of newly formed HealthPrize Technologies (Norwalk, CT). Now, that company is offering a new approach: games and sweepstakes, along with what is said to be a sophisticated level of behavioral psychology and economics. The company has soft-launched a consumer site (www.healthprize.com; check it out if only for the nifty graphics), and is negotiating with some leading pharma companies, as well as with academic medical departments, with a view toward a full launch in early 2011.
CONCEPTUAL USER SCREEN FOR THE HEALTHPRIZE WEBSITE. credit: HealthPrize
Play to win
According to Kottler, one of the many problems in getting adherence programs running is that they start with the premise that a patient is sick and needs medicine; sort of the “take your cod liver oil” approach. HealthPrize, through one of its principals, a former executive at Walker Technologies (which was the developer of, among other things, Priceline.com) is taking the approach of playing a game, or entering a sweepstakes by means of winning points by taking medicine or by engaging in online education about the med. Points can be exchanged for discounts on consumer goods, as well as applied to prizes or financial incentives. Randomly, a lottery-like sweepstakes pops up (giving patients an incentive to visit the site at least daily).
Behind the scorekeeping dashboard that consumers view, the “Engagement Engine,” a set of analytic tools, is in place to adjust rewards or gaming conditions to keep the individual engaged. All this can be done for a lower cost—and with better results—than other financial incentives or discounts on refills that have been tried in the past, says Kottler.
“Everyone knows that the games are tilted in favor of the house in Las Vegas,” says Kottler, “yet people keep coming back. Why? Because extensive behavioral psychology has been applied to make the experience a satisfying one for the customer. Some of the same principles can be applied to medication adherence.” The company has patented its technology, is in the process of setting up a clinical trial, and has announced a partnership with MedTera, a New York healthcare marketing company. PC