Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How can we improve medication adherence?

Many patients have chronic conditions that are treated with medication therapy. Some patients are really good at adhering to their treatment regimens while others frequently forget to take their pills or they simply choose to skip doses because they may not want to deal with side effects. How can health care providers help patients improve adherence to medication therapy?

Some inventors continue to leverage technology to build smart pill boxes or automated reminder mechanisms for patients. Here's a very simple tip that doesn't require anything fancy. Use a simple daily alarm. Most patients now have cell phones and most modern mobile phones have an alarm function. You could also use a digital wristwatch that has an alarm function to remind patients to take their pills.

Of course, you can also use some low-tech reminders like post-it notes on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door. At the end of the day, patients need to be motivated to improve their adherence, and this is where patient education becomes so critical. Even if we see tremendous advances in medical technology that are able to address the issue of adherence, patients with chronic conditions still need to understand the importance of their medications.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has a great article titled, "Thinking Outside the Pillbox — Medication Adherence as a Priority for Health Care Reform." The authors point out several reasons why adherence remains suboptimal among patients.We can spend billions of dollars redesigning the health care system in the United States but unless patients are going to improve how they self-manage their chronic conditions, we won't see much progress in disease management.


  1. We are working on a solution for health care providers to alert them when a 'patient compliance' is compromised. Currently we have such a product and looking into ways to 'integrate' the data into back end IT systems. Thanks for the post as it confirms that we still have a market need for such solutions.
    Thanks, Jim

  2. At MedMinder Systems, we have recently brought a wireless pillbox which enables patients and
    caregivers to manage chronic conditions to the market. It not only reminds patients to
    take their medication through visual, auditory and phone/text messaging, but also
    alerts caregivers and uploads medication adherence data for access via the internet.
    Bela Labovitch