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Am J Manag Care. 2015 Jun 1;21(6):e379-89.

Medication adherence and measures of health plan quality.

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University of Southern California, 3335 South Figueroa St, Unit A, Los Angeles, CA 90089-7273. E-mail:



Medication adherence is increasingly being considered as a measure for performance-based reimbursement contracts in healthcare systems. However, the association between health outcomes and adherence at the plan level is unknown.


Retrospective analysis of medical and pharmacy claims from a large private sector claims database from 2000 to 2009.


We compared plan-level measures of medication adherence and health outcomes for patients with diabetes and congestive heart failure (CHF). Plan performance was based on average rates of disease complications. Medication adherence was calculated as the percent of patients having 80% of days covered for medications treating diabetes or CHF. Both adherence and outcomes were adjusted for patient differences using multivariate regression. Plans were stratified into low, moderate, and high adherence, based on adherence in the bottom quartile, middle 2 quartiles, and top quartile, respectively.


Average adherence varied significantly across plans. Plans with low adherence to diabetes medications had adjusted rates of uncontrolled diabetes admissions of 13.2 per 1000 patients, compared with 11.2 in moderate adherence plans and 8.3 in high adherence plans (P < .001). The adjusted rate of CHF-related hospitalization was 15.3% in low adherence plans, compared with 12.4% in moderate adherence plans and 12.2% in high adherence plans (P < .001). These patterns were consistent across different types of complications for both diabetes and CHF.


Private health plans vary considerably in average adherence to medications treating chronic diseases. Plans with higher average adherence had lower rates of disease complications, suggesting that medication adherence measures are potentially useful tools for improving the performance of health plans.

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