Study: Mobile reminders improve adherence

Medication adherence rates are higher among patients who receive text message prescription reminders than among those who don’t, according to a new study. The study — conducted by OptumRx, part of UnitedHealth Group, and published in the May issue of the journal Clinical Therapeutics — found that patients taking chronic oral medications showed higher medication adherence if they took part in a text message prescription reminder program offered through OptumRx’s pharmacy benefit management organization. The company said this was the first large-scale study in the United States to determine if a text message program providing medication-specific reminders could increase adherence. Previous studies included smaller patient pools, often with fewer than 100 patients, and were focused on homogenous patient groups, such as those being treated for the same disease.


“Text messages and emerging technologies offer new opportunities to educate and engage patients so they can improve their health and ultimately rein in their healthcare costs,” OptumRx pharmacist and lead author Kalee Foreman said. “A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that nearly 70% of medication-related hospital admissions in the United States are due to poor medication adherence, costing the healthcare system roughly $100 billion per year.”


The study, which enrolled 580 members of employer-sponsored Medicare programs, found that patients who received text message reminders had adherence rates of 85%, compared with 77% of those who did not receive the reminders. Among patients who had diabetes, adherence rates were even higher, with a rate of 91% among those who received reminders and 82% among those who didn’t.


Among patients taking beta blockers, similar rates were observed, with 88% adherence among those receiving messages and 71% among the control group. The study measured adherence by “proportion of days covered,” or PDC, which examined each day between Jan. 1, 2011, and Aug. 1, 2011, to determine if the patient had the drug on hand. 


“This research provides strong evidence that technology can play a vital role in improving medication adherence, even among older patients,” OptumRx chief medical officer Brian Solow said. “This is of great importance to all stakeholders in health care because poor medication adherence can lead to inferior treatment outcomes, higher hospitalization rates and increased healthcare costs.”

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