The impact of chronic diseases can be nothing short of devastating. Destabilizing physical and emotional trauma, new financial pressures, frequent doctor visits, and hospitalizations become the new normal. Complex, long-term medication regimens encourage staggering drop-out rates that only exacerbate the problem.
The problem of medication non-adherence
Lack of medication adherence in chronic disease cases is a huge problem that not only affects individuals, but also impacts the healthcare economy. About 117 million patients in the United States suffer from at least one chronic disease. WHO reports that 50% of all chronic disease patients in developed countries fall off the adherence wagon within a year of starting their therapy. The percentage of non-adherence is even greater for patients from vulnerable populations and underdeveloped nations.
These numbers translate to increased healthcare costs of $100 to $300 billion a year in North America alone.
Does medication adherence lead to favorable outcomes?
A 135,000-patient study conducted by CVS showed that medication adherence led to less frequent hospital stays or emergency room visits and substantially lowered healthcare costs. Compliance led to a reduction in costs by half for patients under 65 on cholesterol medication, and 13-fold for patients over 65 on hypertension medication. Another study conducted in South Korea showed that poor medication adherence over a 2-year period, resulted in increased hospitalizations by 32% for hypertension and diabetes patients.
Over the years, researchers have, identified many factors that contribute to medication non-adherence. There are many complex inter-related factors including poor patient education, complicated drug regimens, and poor communication systems.
Text messaging: A simple solution to medication non-adherence
There is one technology tool that is being considered as a potential breakthrough – text messaging. Automated text reminders have universal appeal given that cell phones have become the world’s fastest adopted technology. Today, the world has over 7 billion cell phones, up from 738 million in 2000.
Could automated text reminders become the simple solution to the complex, multifactorial problem of medication non-adherence? The answer is yes – at least, to some extent. Recent studies support that conclusion.
A meta-analysis of 16 randomized clinical trials including 2742 patients showed an impressive two-fold improvement in medication adherence for patients receiving text message reminders. The authors of the study, however, cautioned that the data covered only a short median period of 3 months, and did not account for factors such as long-term physical and mental fatigue.
In a 13-month study of 41 pediatric liver transplant cases, text messages were found to be effective in significantly improving medication adherence as well as reducing transplant rejection. A 7-month study of 300 cardiovascular disease patients revealed that 91% of patients who received text message reminders continued their medication, compared to 75% who did not.
At MMB Advantages, we are deeply interested in innovative breakthroughs that have the potential to improve health outcomes, reduce costs, and incentivize funding programs for vulnerable populations. Text messaging-based reminders provide exactly that – a simple, cost-effective, and ubiquitous solution that addresses some of the key issues in healthcare today.