There are a lot of barriers to medication adherence among patients with chronic conditions. Among them, many people overestimate how well they think they’re complying with their prescription regimen. Those who admit to skipping doses cite side effects (44 percent) or inconvenient timing of their dose (28 percent) as key obstacles.
And help from loved ones isn’t always welcome: Participants in the survey, which was conducted by Russell Research on behalf of Express Scripts, said the most annoying source of reminders is their spouse or partner.
“This survey shows that while patients with chronic diseases know that medication is critical to their treatment and health, they don’t always act on that knowledge,” Snezana Mahon, vice president of Express Scripts Clinical Solutions, said in an announcement of the survey results.
“Given the huge cost of nonadherence to an individual patient’s health, as well as to the country as a whole, it’s essential for patients and clinicians to work together to find solutions to help overcome barriers to adherence.”
The Most Effective Medication Reminders
So what’s the best way to improve medication adherence (and also keep the peace at home)? Respondents see technology-based medication reminders as helpful tools: 74 percent of respondents aged 18-34 years and 62 percent of those aged 35-54 years believe assistance from mobile health apps or wearable devices would help them be better at taking their medications.
That tracks with research that younger people, especially millennials and Generation Z, want their providers to offer digital capabilities, such as mobile access to test results and prescription refills. In one recent Accenture study, half of all patients said they expect providers to communicate digitally; 70 percent said they were more likely to choose a provider that offered the ability to follow up or send appointment reminders via email or text.
Mobile health technology can also help patients take their medication as prescribed, according to the Express Scripts survey, with features such as reminders to take medications and refill prescriptions. Bonus features allow patients and caregivers to track compliance and offer easy in-app refill orders.
The Potential of mHealth Technology
“The influx of innovations in mobile and digital solutions to facilitate healthy behavior and improve health outcomes is enormous,” Sheana Bull, a professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the Colorado School of Public Health and the director of the mHealth Impact Laboratory, wrote in a recent HealthTech article.
And although the industry is still trying to quantify the effectiveness of mHealth solutions, “a small but growing body of evidence demonstrates that text messages effectively facilitate healthy behaviors such as medication adherence and compliance with healthcare appointments,” she writes.
Ochsner Health System in Louisiana is putting it all together with a digital medicine program that allows patients to wirelessly upload remote vital signs, such as blood pressure readings, to an app on their smartphone. Pharmacists and health coaches monitor the results and contact patients if they need to adjust medication or suggest lifestyle changes. As part of the program’s pilot in 2015, Ochsner also equipped patients with an Apple Watch, providing medication and exercise reminders, activity tracking and prescription renewal notifications.
“The three main drivers of nonadherence come from cost, clinical or behavioral reasons,” Kyle Amelung, a senior clinical consultant to Express Scripts, tells mHealth Intelligence. “All three can be solved through mobile health tools.”