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Mobile Health Applications & Medication Adherence : Prescription for Better Outcomes

mhealth apps: Solution to increasing healthcare cost & decreasing adherence

Nearly half of the population of the United States have either one or more long-term health conditions such as diabetes or a heart disease and are supposed to use medications regularly.

As per Therapeutic Drug Use report by Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48.7% of patients are taking at least one prescribed medication. Although, these medications have proven to be effective in treating the conditions but two out of every four patients do not take their medication as directed.

This poor medication adherence claims almost 125,000 lives in the US annually and costs the health care system nearly $300 billion a year in addition to doctor visits, emergency department visit, and hospitalizations.

These stats do raise a few eyebrows and many questions about the state of medicine and drug compliance in United States:

How can a physician ensure that an elderly patient is taking their medicines as assigned? How does a caregiver ensure that their aging parents are taking medicines on time?

Medical science does not have an answer for all these questions yet but when coupled with “technology”, it may offer a solution!

Enter Mobile Healthcare Applications

Mobile health apps and devices have already made quite a stride in the healthcare industry, advancing the quality of the care and patient outcomes.

Mobile health apps have made many aspects of the medical care industry easier and stronger, one of them being the contribution it has made towards lowering the medicinal non-adherence rate.

Let us see how mobile healthcare apps have improved medication compliance resulting in reduced the hospitalization and healthcare cost.

Prescription #1: Improved Medication Adherence

According to a 2014 CDC report, only 30 percent of HIV-positive Americans have ever managed to achieve viral suppression due to failed medication adherence.

Last year, Avella Specialty Pharmacy conducted a study on its HIV patients, asking them to use their mscripts mobile pharmacy app that includes refill reminders, dosage reminders, and other management features, to help them improve adherence to their medication regime.

mobile health applications to improve medication adherence

Out of the 2100-something HIV patients, around 224 used the Avella-branded app.

The results found that 79% of these 224 patients attained at least 90% of medication adherence representing almost 3X the success rate in managing the disease than those who didn’t use it.

mscripts is just one example from the brigade of mobile healthcare apps that are aiming to help the patients stick to their medicine regime.

But what makes these apps a success is that they increase a patient’s engagement and their medication course, based on the simple fact that 91% of users (including patients) keep their smartphones within arm’s reach.

Prescription #2: Reduced hospitalization

Last year, 2610 hospitals across the US were hit with hefty fines under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) readmission penalties rule.

Poor communication and non-adherence were some of the top reasons that for those readmissions, up to 75% of which were totally preventable. Scrambling to reduce these readmissions, many healthcare systems and providers are turning towards mobile technology.

International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcome Research (ISPOR) once stated that 33% to 69% of the all the medication-related hospitalization were a result of poor adherence. Multiple studies have already established a direct correlation has between improved medication adherence and reduced hospitalization.

propeller health

One great example is Propeller Health. It works with a propeller sensor allowing the patients with COPD and asthma to track their inhaler utilization, reminding them of their medication, and transmits the data to the respective physicians and caretaker in an effort to help prevent an attack or during an emergency.

A study on Propeller conducted by Digital Health found that the sensor+app using group had reduced inpatient days per year by a whopping 62% vs. the group that didn’t.

Apart from providing positive solutions for medication adherence and hospitalization rate, there is another problem major healthcare problem that Propeller solves: Cutting the cost.

Prescription #3: Lower Healthcare Cost

Propeller Health founders have stated that their idea behind developing a mobile app that helps prevent readmissions is to help patients and providers reduce the healthcare cost and to avoid financial penalties, respectively.

And their ideation indeed hits the bull’s eye!

A 2009 study, Adherence and health care costs, engaged some patients with congestive heart failure and found that the patients with a good level of medications adherence had fewer hospitalizations, a lesser number of emergency department visits, and their overall healthcare cost was 23% lower than those of the non-adherent patients.

impact of medication adherence on hospitalization risk and healthcare cost

And this is exactly what another mHealth app, MediSafe, is trying to achieve.

MediSafe app acts like a virtual pillbox and helps its users take their prescribed medicines on time 81% of the time.

And according to a research conducted by the consulting firm, Accenture, mobile solutions such as MediSafe’s virtual pillbox can help the US save $23 billion a year by leveraging adherence in chronically ill patients.

mobile health applications improve medication adherence

While the clinical and economic benefits of medication adherence are well-known, but ensuring compliance  still remains a challenge. Whether reasons of non-compliance are patient, physician or health system related, but one thing is clear – greater patient engagement and education are some of the the key factors to achieve it.

As evidence suggested, mHealth apps do contribute to encourage and incentivize the patients to remain more adherent to their drug regimens which have not only improved the outcomes of their treatment but also helped the payers and providers avoid penalties and reduce long term healthcare cost.


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