Reminder apps not a bitter pill to help with medication adherence

Neelima Choahan

28/08/2018 2:57:12 PM

New research from the University of Sydney shows mobile phone apps could potentially save lives by helping people experiencing coronary heart disease with their medication adherence.

Dom Vitetta says using a smart phone medication-reminder app has helped him with his medication, especially while travelling.
Dom Vitetta says using a smart phone medication-reminder app has helped him with his medication, especially while travelling.

High-quality smart phone medication-reminder apps could help coronary heart disease patients keep on top of their medication, new University of Sydney research has shown.
Published in Heart, the National Heart Foundation-funded study compared the medication usage of 160 predominately male patients with a mean age of 57.9 years over a three-month randomised trial.
The patients’ were divided into three groups: usual care, those using a basic app, and an advanced app with interactive/customisable features.
The primary analysis compared usual care versus app use. Researchers also compared the use of basic apps, with one-time reminder alarms, to those with more advanced features.
According to senior author Associate Professor Julie Redfern, the researchers essentially wanted to determine whether using the app improved people’s medication adherence.
‘We typically know people with coronary heart disease, after they leave hospital, tend to drop off in terms of their medical adherence, usually down to around 40%,’ Associate Professor Redfern told newsGP.
‘Patients with coronary heart disease can become overwhelmed with the amount of pills they are taking, as they are often prescribed up to four different types of medication, which need to be taken sometimes up to three times a day.
‘Taking medication is the most evidence-based thing somebody can do to help prevent them having further heart attacks.’
Associate Professor Redfern, who is from the University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre, said researchers hope the study results will help in preventing heart attacks.
However, she said there are 272 medication-reminder apps available to patients and it is difficult to know whether they are effective.
‘There is a lot of apps, and not a lot of evidence at the moment as to whether they help,’ she said. ‘So we wanted to see … [whether we] can look at these freely-available apps and see if it makes a difference in people’s medication adherence.’
Associate Professor Redfern said the research showed the use of an app did improve people’s adherence over three months.
‘The patients actually liked it and felt it was useful,’ she said.
‘Predominantly, [what they liked] would be a reminder within the system, and also it provides information about the medication. It just facilitated that process of reminding people to take the medication.
‘For GPs, studies like this should be able to give them some confidence that these things are good for helping patients remember to take the medications.’
Dom Vitetta, 64, told newsGP he had started thinking of getting a Webster medication pack to organise his 10 medicines, including for diabetes and blood pressure, when he was asked to enrol in the study. He said he had missed his medications enough to cause concern to his diabetes specialist.
Mr Vitetta, who has a family history of heart disease and underwent stent surgery last year, used an app called Medisafe as part of the trial.
‘[Previously], all of my medication management was done by myself,’ Mr Vitetta said.
‘I found Medisafe actually works … it has become my electronic Webster pack. What it allows you to do is a full inventory of all the medications.
‘It also allows you to put in the dosage and the time.’
Mr Vitetta said the app sends a reminder to take the tablet and keeps doing it until it is checked off.
‘They are very intuitive … it also tell you the impact of all your medications,’ Mr Vitetta said.
‘[On] holidays … as a ready-reckoner it is there. Not only do I know what I am taking and when I am taking it, but also the dosages.’

coronary heart disease health apps Medisafe National Heart Foundation

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