Sempre Health revamps Rx discounts with smart phone texts

Anurati Mathur, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Sempre Health, says she has reinvented the 130-year-old prescription coupon model to work more in favor of all the parties involved.

Pharmaceutical companies have funding set aside to help patients afford their chronic disease medications, and Sempre’s platform enables access to these resources, with a new way of motivating patients, Mathur says. Patients are texted when their prescription is ready and if they pick it up on time—maintaining their adherence without a break—they receive a discount.

Sempre is reporting a 16 percent boost in adherence, with patients paying 50 percent less over a 12-month period.

“Non-adherence has a significant price tag attached to it,” Mathur says. “We engage patients over time to drive adherence, and we’ve seen a significant improvement for our health plan partners in a reduction in utilization downstream.”

Mathur sees this unique method of motivating patients and helping health plans maintain a healthy population could easily serve as a blueprint for healthcare more broadly. “Part of what makes Sempre work is the incentive alignment,” she says. “A lot of what’s been proposed in the national arena is trying to legislate toward the common goal of lowering drug prices for patients, but these haven’t worked. If you want to create a lasting solution, you have to align the incentives of existing parties. Pharmaceutical companies want affordable medications for patients. Health plans are looking to keep their populations healthy, and patients want to afford their medications.”

Sempre is live in all 50 states and, as of last August, had 26,000 patient users. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is a current client, with more Blues in the queue to sign up by next quarter, Mathur says. “Plans have seen immense value in offering this benefit to their members for free. It helps them address affordability in a more sophisticated way than a coupon.”

Sempre contracts with pharmaceutical companies first, then with the health plans. Health plans select 13 medications from Sempre’s platform to offer with a discount to their members. The platform is HIPAA compliant and has business associate agreements in place. After members are invited to enroll, they are seamlessly reminded via text about their medication. The texts tell members how much they will save by picking up the medication on time. All prescriptions are discounted through Sempre, regardless of when a patient picks it up; however, those that pick up on time will save more, Mathur says.

Reminders to patients are strictly done through smart phone texting—no downloads or passwords are required. Sempre built the business on the idea that texting is ubiquitous. Any phone can receive a text, and 90 percent of texts are read within three minutes, according to Mathur.

Sempre uses the data it collects on patient sensitivity to pricing to gain insight. Sometimes medication with too high of a co-pay is abandoned by a patient. “We are able to learn about price sensitivity and abandonment in a novel way,” Mathur says. “If pricing were static, we couldn’t learn.” Sempre is able to analyze how far the needle has to go on a discount before a plan can gain adherence to a medication. All these data are available to Sempre’s health plan partners from the start.

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