Impact of Patient Assistance on Access, Medication Adherence and Quality of Life

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In our daily work, we see firsthand the transformative power of patient assistance. Last year, we conducted a survey of 1,459 patients who received PAN Foundation grants to learn more about how patient assistance impacts their healthcare journey.

The most convincing evidence that these programs bolster access to treatment comes directly from patients, their families and their healthcare providers. Here are a few key insights from the results of our survey:

1. Assistance from charitable foundations helps patients adhere to treatment.

Without financial support, high out-of-pocket costs frequently prevent people from adhering to medically necessary treatments, especially those with low incomes. Among those who received financial assistance from PAN and had annual incomes less than $25,000, 54 percent said they had skipped or cut doses of their medication prior to receiving a PAN grant because they couldn’t afford to take the full dose.

These results mirror trends seen in published literature investigating patient experiences with out-of-pocket costs related to prescription medications. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 21 percent of Americans report that they, or someone in their family, did not fill a prescription because of cost, with that figure rising to 30 percent among people with low incomes and 44 percent among people in poor health. Furthermore, 16 percent of Americans cut pills in half or skipped doses of their medications due to cost, and this rises to 25 percent among people with low incomes and 35 percent among people in poor health.

Our survey also revealed the significant impact of patient assistance on treatment initiation and adherence. After receiving financial assistance from PAN, 93 percent of patients said they were much more likely to take their medications as prescribed. Healthcare providers and pharmacists agreed with their patients: more than 80 percent said that financial assistance makes it more likely that patients will take their medications as prescribed and improve their health.

2. Financial support reduces stress and offers hope to patients and their families.

Charitable assistance has positive ripple effects. Nine out of ten patients who received support from PAN said that it decreased stress for the entire family. A significant body of research confirms these findings—reduced financial stress improves the quality of life for patients and their families.

Additionally, 84 percent of patients surveyed reported that financial assistance increased their ability to manage other expenses. Patients also expressed that the support they received from PAN provided them with hope that their health would improve.

3. The need for patient assistance is urgent and ongoing.

Even with financial support from charitable foundations, patients continue to face challenges paying for critical medical treatment. We discovered that 83 percent of grant recipients had ongoing concerns about finances and 40 percent were worried about keeping their job while managing their illness. Four out of five patients said even after receiving financial assistance, their out-of-pocket medical expenses were higher than expected and only 10 percent of patients were confident that they would be able to cover the cost of their treatment.

Studies from the Commonwealth Fund and the National Council on Aging have assessed the extent of economic insecurity among older adults and how healthcare costs impact the underinsured. This research contextualizes the growing need for patient assistance programs to ensure that individuals with inadequate insurance coverage can access needed prescription medications.

Until policies are enacted that ensure access to needed treatments, patient assistance programs will continue to play a critical role in the healthcare safety net.

For a detailed report of the survey’s findings, read the full brief here.