Prescription
Prescription adherence information will be built into a new "medical credit score" developed by the FICO corporation. Image: Flickr / calliope / CC-BY

The World Health Organization has recently released a group of studies with a sobering fact: Half of individuals with chronic diseases do not take their medication as prescribed. Reasons for this vary greatly, but the reality is that not following through with medical treatments means outcomes are not as positive. One U.S. credit rating agency has taken this reality to heart and plans on creating a Medical FICO score for individuals.

A medical FICO score

FICO, the Fair Issac Corporation, was founded in 1956 to rate individuals’ creditworthiness. Since then, the FICO score (or similar scores, such as TransUnion), has become a factor in everything from credit card applications to getting a job. The Fair Issac Corporation has decided to expand into a new realm – medical “credit” rating.

The medical FICO score, officially called the Medication Adherence Score, will rate how likely you are to take your prescriptions and follow medical advice. The score will pull from prescription records, age, gender, family size, financial status, asset information and location information. The score will range from 1 to 500, with a score of 400 or more being “very likely” to take a prescribed medication, while a score of 200 or lower will be “at very high risk” of not taking medication as prescribed.

How FICO thinks the MAS should be used

According to the Fair Issac Corporation, the Medical Adherence Score should be used by doctors and medical treatment professionals to inform treatment decisions. Suggestions include things like calling or following up with individuals with a low MAS to ensure that they take their medications as prescribed. Some experts have also theorized about changing the dosage or type of medication someone is prescribed based on their score. The less likely to follow instructions someone may be, the more flexible of a medication they should be prescribed. The idea is that a more personalized approach to medication should help cut down the estimated $290 billion per year that medical non-adherence costs the health care system.

Potential challenges to the MAS

The Medical Adherence Score faces many challenges. First, FICO has not presented any options for individuals to opt out of the MAS scoring. Like any credit report, it will not necessarily be optional. Despite this, FICO has not offered a way for any of the 10 million patients to find out their scores without asking their doctors, who may not have access to the information unless they have paid for it. Secondly, there are fears that the MAS score may affect access to health care. FICO’s representative Dave Shellenberger said in an interview with CreditCards.com:

The score was not designed, tested or validated to serve as an underwriting tool. And, underwriting is not an allowable use of the score under the terms of our client contracts.

However, many patient advocates and privacy advocates are expressing concern about the advent of this new medical credit score and how it may be used, both now and in the future.

Sources

Connected-Health.org: http://www.connected-health.org/programs/medication-adherence.aspx
New England Journal of Medicine: http://healthpolicyandreform.nejm.org/?p=3280
Yahoo Finance / CreditCards.com: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/New-medical-FICO-score-sparks-creditcards-1400615100.html?x=0
PR Web: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/7/prweb8652172.htm

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