Essentia Health is participating in a clinical study to test if low or no co-pays help improve outcomes.

If your prescription medicine was provided to you at a lower cost or free, would you be more careful to follow your doctor's orders and continue with your medication as prescribed? That's what a 1½ year long study involving Essentia Health cardiac patients wanted to find out. And now, the results of the Artemis clinical trial are in.

"The study demonstrated when vouchers were used, patients were statistically more likely to adhere to their prescribed medication program," Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Jason Schultz said.

Essentia Health enrolled 95 patients in the clinical trial between April 2015 and September 2016 as one of 301 hospitals across the U.S. to participate. All 11,001 patients had health insurance, either private or through Medicare and Medicaid. Vouchers were given to slightly more than half the patients in the study for medical therapy. The trial found more patients (87 percent v. 84 percent) reported taking their medicine as prescribed.

"What this study demonstrates is that the concept of vouchers and making medications more affordable and available to our patients can improve adherence," Schultz said.

Schultz hopes the Artemis trial sparks future studies involving a broader base of medications for cardiac patients. The trial's findings were presented by Dr. Tracy Wang on March 11 in Orlando, Florida. Wang noted the findings raise further questions about how to deploy co-payment reduction strategies to improve clinical outcomes.