Nov 01 2018

Improved Patient Adherence could be a Quick Text or Phone Call Away

Last year Walgreens conducted a study of pharmacy patients enrolled in Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) who were considered non-adherent in following their medication protocols.  The study was intended to determine if a proactive phone call to patients would incentivize them to refill their prescriptions.

It seems like such an easy step, and indeed, patients who received reminder calls responded, with adherence nearly 23 percent greater within the first 14 days of the expected refill date.

Improving medication adherence is of course a top priority for pharmacists nationwide.  And with an estimated 50 percent of patients exhibiting some form of non-adherence – lapsed refills, unfilled prescriptions, skipped dosages – it’s clear that new ideas are needed for encouraging patients to follow proper medication routines.

It may just be though, that mobile phones could be a part of the solution.  Consider that, according to Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Americans own some type of cellphone, with 77 percent owning smartphones.  Among senior citizens – the group most likely to be non-adherent, 85 percent own cellphones, with nearly half owning a smartphone.

Further, nearly 97 percent of mobile phone owners say they take advantage of text messaging.

And while the Walgreen’s study found reminder phone calls helped improve adherence, additional research has shown the effectiveness of text messages.  A comprehensive review of data, published in the March 2016 issue of JAMAInternal Medicine, found “mobile text messaging approximately doubles the odds of medication adherence.” 

The report examined findings of several existing studies, and found considerablevariation with regard to text characteristics. 
For example:

  • 15 studies sent text messages at a fixed, predetermined frequency.
  • One study used real-time medication monitoring in which patients were sent a text only if the patient failed to open a medication dispenser.
  • Five studies incorporated personalization in their messages.  As an example, one study used the following personalization:  “[Mr. or Ms.] [Patient Name], please take [medicine quantity] tablet of [medication name] at [time].
  • Eight studies used a two-way communication strategy.
  • Four studies coordinated message send times with timing of patients’ medication doses.
  • Eight studies found that daily text messages were most common.

Pharmacy technology solutions now make it easier than ever for pharmacies to initiate outbound calls and text messages.  Patients can receive automatic reminders to take their medications, alerts when a refill is required, and when a prescription is ready to be picked up.