Improving patient medication adherence is a common challenge for doctors. Medication nonadherence costs our health care system $289 billion each year and has a damaging effect on patient health. A report by the Mayo Clinic found "approximately 50% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed."
As a physician, you’ve probably struggled to boost medication adherence – your patients forget to take their medication on time or can’t manage to keep their six medications straight. Some patients even end up in urgent care centers when simple problems aren’t treated properly, or back in the hospital when medication adherence stops at discharge.
Since a majority of patients are now smartphone users, mobile apps can be your secret weapon against medication non-adherence. The even better news? We've sorted through the hundreds of smartphone apps out there and picked our top five for you.
Here are the top medication apps that will help your patients take their meds by the book. Plus, they’re all free and both android and apple-compatible.
Not all patients understand the importance of medication adherence. Enter PatientPartner. This app turns patient health education into a “choose your own adventure game” that patients can play while waiting for the doctor. Patients select a character and then make choices that affect their character’s health. At the end, they get scores in categories such as health education, health strategy, and emergency response. Use this app to gamify the learning process, and show patients the importance of sticking to a treatment schedule.
With over one million downloads in the Google Play store alone, Medisafe is obviously a crowd favorite for managing medications. Described as a “virtual pillbox,” the app captures the color and shape of a patient’s medications along with their dosages and schedules. It sends the patient push notifications when it’s time to take their meds, and notifies a friend or family member if the patient forgets. And, for any of your patients who don’t have smartphones, Medisafe is launching a lowtech version in 2015 that sends reminders through automated phone calls and text messages.
Dosecast boasts a range of smart scheduling features for patients. The app adjusts notifications to fit users’ bedtimes, provides back-up reminders, and gives users a chance to hit the snooze button on notifications when they’re in the middle of something. The frequent traveler never has to worry about missing a dose, since Dosecast tracks any changes in time zone and adjusts scheduling accordingly. The premium edition is perfect for patients taking multiple medications or managing prescriptions for their whole family.
Medhelper has many of the same features of Dosecast (a log of past doses, snoozable reminders, flexible scheduling). But, this little app also has an exportable reports feature that makes tracking your patients’ medication adherence easy. Also, the free lite edition comes with many of the premium edition features of Dosecast, such as multiple profiles for different family members. The lite edition does have ads, but if your patients find these bothersome they can pay the small $3.99 fee and upgrade to pro.
This app may not be as robust as the others, but there’s a reason it’s been downloaded 100,000 times in the Google Play store. The design layout of My Pillbox is clean and visually pleasing. At each dosage, patients can note whether they feel “worse, the same, or better” with a friendly emoticon and then add a memo. My Pillbox’s streamlined design makes it a good option for users who just need a couple daily reminders.
Many of these apps have similar functionality but slightly different user interfaces. Consider suggesting two app options (but not more) to patients, and letting them experiment to see which works best for them. Or, do a trial run of each app yourself and see which one wins out. Getting your patients onboard with these simple reminder apps can go a long way in boosting medication adherence and keeping your patients happy and healthy.
Have you suggested any of these apps to your patients? Which one worked best?