Technology could help patients kick bad habits

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Medication nonadherence is sort of similar to substance abuse: It’s a societal issue that stems from multiple causes and as such, probably will never completely disappear; however, it still can be mitigated. And because it stems from multiple causes, effectively combating it also requires multiple strategies.

(THE NEWS: HealthPrize, RealAge look at social media, gaming technology to improve adherence. For the full story, click here.)

But any effort to address nonadherence ultimately depends on the patient. Scaring patients about the dangers of not taking drugs properly only can go so far, especially considering that many patients are nonadherent for reasons that may scare them more immediately than those dangers, such as high costs and unpleasant side effects. But HealthPrize has found that leveraging technologies that patients use — such as smartphones and the Internet — to give them rewards for taking their drugs as directed by prescribers can go even further.

In a January study of 20 patients, the company found that adherence among patients who received cash rewards and got to play interactive games was 88%. And in a March survey of 100 physicians, respondents said they were 30% more likely to prescribe a medication that included a program with adherence incentives than to prescribe a medication that didn’t.

The possibilities go beyond HealthPrize’s platform. The integration of Ford Motor’s SYNC technology and WellDoc’s services creates another avenue through which people can be encouraged to take their drugs properly. And for retailers, incentives for adherence are a natural fit, with possibilities ranging from discounts to cash rewards to sweepstakes to online and mobile games.

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