Startup companies are coming up with new technologies aimed at getting people to take medicine only as directed.
Taking medication haphazardly—skipping doses, lapsing between refills or taking pills beyond their expiration date—has been linked to health complications and hundreds of millions of wasted dollars for insurers and hospitals.
"After six months' time, only half of people taking prescription medicines are taking them as directed," said Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer of drug retailer CVS Caremark Corp.
Health insurers and pharmacy-benefits managers like CVS have long relied on robo-calls, mailers and face-to-face meetings with pharmacists to keep patients on their dosing schedule.
Now they are evaluating a range of more cost-effective technologies, from pills and bottles with digital sensors, to data analytics software and social games that offer patients rewards.
Insurers and pharmacies are motivated in part by Medicare, which offers financial rewards for proving their members have improved their overall adherence to medication schedules.
They also stand to benefit if their members are healthier. The New England Healthcare Institute estimates that some $290 billion in costs is wasted each year on unnecessary hospital and doctor visits by people who failed to comply with their medication schedule.
CVS is pilot-testing technology from Virginia-based RxAnte Inc., which sells an analytics platform that looks at millions of patients' claims data and clinical data to identify people at highest risk of failing to comply with doctors' orders.
These patients include people with a spotty track record of adherence, those who take several different medicines or those facing unwanted side effects, Chief Executive Josh Benner said.
"It's all a targeting game," Mr. Benner said. "We predict individual behaviors, and suggest interventions."