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Texting to Better Health: Can SMS Improve Medication Compliance?

It's easy to underestimate the power of a single text. But, if you rely on medication, a simple reminder text could make a huge difference for your health. Studies are showing that setting up text message reminders for dosages improves rates of compliance to a medication routine, findings that have big implications.

It can be all too easy to miss doses of medication by simply forgetting to take them, and many who are prescribed medication choose not to take it, feeling uncertain about its risks or that they may not need it. In short, medication compliance can be dangerously low; almost one third of patients prescribed medication prescribed to control blood pressure and lipids, medicine that can be critical to a patient's health, are not compliant with their medication.

Increasing medication compliance is a big concern for healthcare providers, but a difficult change for them to make: once the patient has left the office, the ball is no longer in the provider's court. And who's going to take the time and effort to remind and encourage patients to take their medication every day? Enter texting.

Texting is a powerful vehicle for increasing medication compliance now more than ever. Most U.S. residents own a cell phone, and cell phones are increasing in popularity across generations, including among older folks. The reach of texting as a medium is broad enough to make texting a viable, widespread solution to the problem at hand.

In a study of 300 patients already taking medication to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol, published in the journal PLOS One, half of patients were assigned to a control group while half received text message reminders. At first, reminder texts were sent daily, asking if the patients had taken their medication. After two weeks, the texts dropped in frequency to every other day, and after another two weeks, dropped to once weekly for six months. If a patient did not reply, they received a phone call to further investigate the situation.

The study bears promising findings: only 9% of the experimental condition failed to take their medication or took less than 80% of their prescription, compared to 25% noncompliance in the control condition. These results suggest that texting offers great power to improve and ensure the health of patients; this sort of program could be used to text drug reminders to patients of a variety of chronic illnesses.

Another feature of this program is that it identifies those who likely do not take their medication, simply based on who does not respond to the texts. This data can be valuable to healthcare providers, allowing them to determine whom they might wish to monitor or follow up with on alternate plans to improve compliance with medication.

Also of note is the financial implications for healthcare providers. Texting is a very low-cost approach to the problem at hand, and involves minimal labor hours when SMS subscription software is used. For its simplicity, ease, efficacy, and potential benefits and savings, texting to increase medication compliance presents a promising prospect.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 

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