Thursday, February 10, 2011

Medication Adherence: Two Views

We have a friend who’s done a lot of research on medication adherence, and he says that healthcare professionals fall into two camps regarding how they see patients and their capacity to maintain their treatment regimens. In the one camp, he says, are those who think patients can't motivate themselves for their own betterment. It’s the doctors who have the answers, not the patients.

Those in the other camp think just the opposite. They say patients are smart enough to know they need to maintain their prescribed regimen – they just need a little help to stick with the program.

Is it possible both camps are right? A study of hypertensive Medicaid patients who used a pill phone app on their cell phone reminding them to take their meds is pointing that way. It was a small study – 50 patients -- so we’re loathe to do more than surmise.

In a nutshell, the 50 patients accepted the idea, and used the app throughout the seven-month study. The patients were “generally satisfied” with the software, and patients continued to have their scripts refilled. But – once the study was over, there was a “decrease” in refills “after the application was discontinued.”

So, the study’s sponsors and researchers, including George Washington University Medical Center, appreciated that the participants were smart enough to be taught how to use the technology. And these patients used it for the study's duration. But once they no longer had the phone, they stopped.

Why? It would be good if the researchers asked some follow-up questions of these study participants. Any insight into how patients feel about maintaining their treatment regimens can only help.

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