Medical messaging can improve medication complianceBy Veita Bland, M.D. / February 26, 2016
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One of the most problematic issues for me as a physician is getting patients to take their medications. The first hurdle for patients to cross is to be able to obtain the medication from the pharmacy. Making sure that patients can get their insurance company to provide their medications is another huge hurdle and a critical issue we have covered in the past. So, making sure patients can obtain their medications is a major step.
Studies have shown that even after making sure medication is obtainable, only fifty percent of patients will then go on and actually obtain the prescribed medication from the pharmacy.
It is estimated that only half of those who pick up their medications actually take them. On top of that, only half of those patients who take their medication actually take them correctly. Unfortunately, many patients forget to take their medications daily. Some skip a lot. All this adds to the adverse health outcomes we see from noncompliance.
Certainly, when we are speaking of medications for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension for example, not taking these medications daily can result in early death or a decline in one’s quality of life.
So what can be done to encourage people to take their medications daily? How do we help those patients who understand the importance of taking their medications remember to do so?
Health care providers have worried for years about how to make sure people take their medications. For example, in the tuberculosis world, nurses witnessed the taking of medications to ensure those medications are actually taken. Such extreme surveillance is considered impractical in the everyday world.
Some industrious researchers have even wondered whether incorporating modern technology such as cell phone capabilities would be helpful. For example, patients could be sent a daily text message to remind them to take their medications which could improve compliance. One such study did just that and the response was remarkable.
At the beginning of this study, participants were at a fifty percent adherence level. The use of text messaging increased that adherence to 67 percent, a 17 percent increase. Although we all would have wanted the increase to be more, the level was deemed to significantly change the course of illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Researchers studying medication compliance have questioned whether patients receiving text reminders were experiencing “messaging fatigue,” or growing tired to hearing the same reminders. To prevent this from occurring, some researchers changed the wording of the medication reminder and sent patients reminders at various times of the day in an attempt to boost effectiveness.
It is clear that text messaging from a health care provider to the patient could help improve medication compliance. Continued patient education by a healthcare provider is also vital to improving medication compliance. I would love to utilize a messaging service or medical app that would remind my patients to take their medications.
Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.