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The Emerging Use of Technology to Increase Medication Adherence

Written by Nihar Patel HS'20, MBA'21
Published on October 26, 2018

Medication non-adherence is a widespread issue that costs patients and the healthcare industry millions of dollars and yields negative patient outcomes. As stated by the New York Times, medication non-adherence is an issue that is 100% preventable by the patients themselves. This issue is the cause of 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations annually in the United States. The pharmaceutical industry is constantly searching for new avenues to increase patient medication adherence. There has been high interest in integrating technology with medication adherence programs in the pharmaceutical industry. Some examples of this newly emerging technology include cloud based medication support, peer-to-peer reminders, text messages, smart pills, and mobile games. The results of these technological advancements vary from patient to patient in terms of their adherence. While some advancements benefit patients’ medication adherence, others fail to prove increased outcomes.

Since cell phones are highly integrated into the lifestyle of so many patients, they can prove to be helpful in assisting patients adhere to their medications. iRetainRx,  which is an app currently under development, provides cloud based medication support for patients with diabetes by instantly connecting them with their pharmacist and provide a platform for collaborative care.   Additionally, there is an app that enables peer-to-peer reminders called MediSafe, which allows the patient’s family and friends to be notified if the patient has not taken their medications. MediSafe reports that its medication adherence rates are about 80%. Apps such as MemoText and MyMeds Medication Management, text or email your phone to remind patients to take their medications as scheduled. Something as simple as an automated text can increase medication adherence rates. For younger patients who need an incentive to take their medications, the apps, HealthPrize and Pillboxie reward patients in the form of video games and prizes for proper medication adherence practices.

In addition to mobile applications, some companies have developed ingestible medications so the physician can physically track medication adherence in their patients along with multiple supplementary variables. Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals developed an aripiprazole tablet called AbilifyMyCite which has an integrated sensor, allowing the physician to know if a patient has ingested the tablet. The integrated sensor in the tablet is enabled once the tablet is swallowed and it sends a signal to a patch placed on the patient’s skin. The patch then communicates the information to an app which tracks when the medication is taken and the activity level of the patient. The information presented in the app can be utilized during the patient’s next doctor visit. This can help optimize medication adherence because the doctor is aware and able to track whether or not the patient took their medications.

There are various technologies that have been developed in the recent years to help increase patient medication adherence.  However, there is no single technology that yields a 100% success for all patients. It is important to understand that each patient has a different reason for not taking their medications. Some patients may be forgetful while others need an incentive. Despite what the reason may be, the variety of emerging technologies are tailored to serve all patients and their needs. Health care providers and patients should be working together to help find the best service that helps increase their adherence to medication therapy.

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