Thinking outside the pillbox: Enabling patients to stick to their medication plan

To the tune of 125,000 deaths and $300 million, medication non-adherence is a growing concern to clinicians and the healthcare system. In fact nearly two thirds of re-admissions are due to medication non-adherence. However, the use of interventions to improve adherence are rare in routine clinical practice. When pill counts, chasing pharmacy records, or patient attestation aren’t cutting it, reach for a technological helping hand.

Gamify the importance of adherence

The benefits of taking medications regularly aren’t readily apparent to many patients, especially with medications that are more preventive in nature. Instead of only teaching, try gamification. It’s a stealthy way to keep them healthy.

  • The new PatientPartner mobile app aims to boost adherence by giving patients a “choose your own adventure” game while waiting in the doctor’s waiting room. The player decides what to do about a fictional patient’s health. In one clinical study, use of the app improved medication adherence by 37%.
  • Virtual pillbox mobile apps like Medisafe allow all medications to be entered along with their color and shape. Push notifications ensure doses aren’t missed, and if they’re missed by more than an hour, a friend can be notified.

Talk to the bottle

The most innovative tools in adherence management are ones that connect to the medication itself. They also give the most accurate and objective data about doses taken.

  • Remotely monitor inhaler usage for asthma and COPD patients with Propeller Health. This device attaches to most inhalers and tracks when and where the inhaler is used. The data captured can help individual physicians and public health agencies make more informed clinical decisions.
  • Find out when pills are dispensed with tools like CleverCap. Now available in certain areas, this device can replace the cap on most pill bottles. It both reminds and monitors the when patients take their medications.

Leverage pharmacy features

Up to 30% of patients never pick up their prescriptions, and depending on patient needs, certain pharmacies can help get the meds in-hand better than others. E-prescribing sends the order, but pick up and refill reminders are crucial for some patients. With your patient, select a convenient pharmacy that uses one of the following features:

  • Text messaging reminders are available within a number of the larger pharmacy networks such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid. Patients need to opt-in to receiving SMS text alerts for pickup and refill reminders.
  • Mail order pharmacies will send registered patients medications directly to the home, and many will automatically refill where authorized. For chronic medications, write for a 90-day supply so patients save money and time arranging for refills.

Smartphone-based solutions

Even the most savvy of patients miss doses, and a simplified regimen helps keep this to a minimum.

  • Text message reminders can help create a simple routine for taking a new medication, especially if time of day is important. Free reminder services such as Script Your Future allows patients to sign up for regular dosing reminders via text.
  • Reminder apps are a more robust option for reminders, especially if a patient is taking multiple medications at different times. Apps like MedCoach allows a patient to enter all of their medications by name and can even connect patients to their pharmacy for refills.

How do you motivate your patients to take their meds as directed? Leave a comment below.