Score Intended to Measure Adherence Gives Some People the Creeps

August 11, 2011

FICO, a company that compiles credit scores, has launched a measure that tracks medication adherence. Some people wonder whether it will raise their healthcare costs.

Efforts to encourage medication adherence could take a hit from a new initiative apparently intended to improve it. In response terms such as "spark controversy" in headlines about the launch of a patient adherence score created by FICO (a company best known for compiling credit scores), the conversation on Twitter has been live with indignation.

"I see a foreshadowing of “1984” in this? Oh sure, they are “it’s illegal this and illegal that”…but give it a few years. Our costs of healthcare will be directed by this score as much as our availability to credit is by the other. Just wait and see…," wrote an unidentified respondent to a blog about the new Medication Adherence Score written by a rheumatoid arthritis patient. His Twitter post linking to the blog generated messages that called the idea "creepy."

Based on pharmacy records, the score's purpose is to identify those patients least likely to take their medications as prescribed. FICO's press release announcing the score says it will provide "valuable insight to pharmaceutical marketing teams," but can also help doctors and pharmacy benefit managers to choose the best treatment strategy for a particular patient.

The immediate reactions to this initiative on social media raise the question whether such monitoring could inspire mistrust among those people least likely to take their medications in the first place. Whatever pharmacy benefit managers do with the information, it has a thought-provoking implication for physicians. If you are certain a patient isn't following your prescription, is there a way to improve adherence without tipping your hand?