Medication non-adherence is a major contributor to poor outcomes in diabetes. Previous research has shown an association between use of mail order pharmacy delivery and better medication adherence, but little is known about the barriers and facilitators to mail order pharmacy use in diabetes patients. This qualitative study examined factors related to mail order pharmacy use versus traditional "brick and mortar" pharmacies to refill prescriptions.
We conducted four 90-min focus groups in 2016 among 28 diabetes patients in the Hawaii and Northern California regions of Kaiser Permanente, a large integrated health care delivery system. We queried participants on their preferred mode for refilling prescriptions and perceived barriers and facilitators of mail order pharmacy use. One researcher independently coded each focus group transcript, with two of these transcripts double-coded by a second researcher to promote reliability. We employed thematic analysis guided by the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation, and Behavior (COM-B) framework using NVivo 11 software.
A total of 28 diabetes patients participated. Participants' average age was 64.1 years; 57% were female; and racial/ethnic backgrounds included Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (36%), Black/African-American (21%) Hispanic/Latino (7%), and non-Hispanic White (36%). Analysis uncovered 26 themes related to the decision to use mail order pharmacy, with each theme representing a barrier or facilitator mapped to the COM-B framework. Most themes (20/26) fell into the COM-B category of 'Opportunity.' Opportunity barriers to mail order pharmacy use included unpredictability of medication delivery date, concerns about mail security, and difficulty coordinating refill orders for multiple prescriptions. In contrast, facilitators included greater access and convenience (e.g., no need to wait in line or arrange transportation) compared to traditional pharmacies. Motivational facilitators to mail order pharmacy use included receiving a pharmacy benefit plan incentive of a free one-month supply of prescriptions.
This study found that while patients with diabetes may benefit from mail order pharmacy use, they perceive numerous barriers to using the service. These findings will inform the design of interventions and quality improvement initiatives to increase mail order pharmacy use, which in turn may improve medication adherence and outcomes in diabetes patients, across health care systems.