Medicine can’t work when it’s not taken. It sounds simple: “Take your meds as prescribed.” But with multiple doses per day and/or several medications to take, it can quickly become confusing. A combination of rising medication costs, poor self-management, insufficient education, and lack of support have led to poor medication adherence among patients. Research shows that only 50% of patients correctly follow their prescription regimens. Even more alarming is that, according to the World Health Organization, medication non-adherence causes one death every four minutes and 700,000 emergencies in the U.S. annually.
Beyond increased mortality and suffering, medication non-adherence places a massive burden on the world’s healthcare system and has a profound impact on public health. The CDC estimates that non-adherence costs the U.S. healthcare system $300 billion per year.
Medication adherence for chronic conditions is particularly challenging because patients typically need to be on therapy for years and the medical benefit related to the medication may not be evident in the near-term. And the numbers are of epidemic proportions. Nearly 50% of U.S. adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes. When diabetics don’t take their medications as prescribed, it often leads to more serious illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, accounting for 17% of the nation’s health costs. U.S. healthcare costs attributed to diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia alone stand at $106 billion.
The Impact of mHealth Tools
By addressing underlying causes of non-adherence, mobile health (mHealth) tools are helping people become and stay more proactive in managing their health while giving them and their loved ones peace of mind. Several studies have revealed a strong correlation between higher adherence and reduced healthcare cost. One study found that non-adherent diabetes patients have inpatient healthcare costs that are 41% higher than those of adherent patients. Mobile platforms are improving patient health outcomes, alleviating the cost burden on health systems, and enabling pharmaceutical companies to recoup billions of their R&D investments annually.
A recent study conducted by QuintilesIMS presented at ISPOR compared medication adherence among people with diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia using our Medisafe platform, to that of a control group of non-app users by referencing their prescription refill rates using a HIPAA-compliant de-identification process. The results showed that app users were significantly more adherent to their medications than their non-user peers. Specifically, app users had up to a 20% higher adherence than non-users.
Achieving clinically significant sustainable improvements in adherence for most patients means addressing more than simple forgetfulness through basic reminders. AI-driven mHealth apps can help by personalizing alerts and interventions based on behavioral patterns and situational factors of individual users and cohorts. Examples include, a) using a person’s location—at/close to home versus far from home—to time notifications for medications sitting on the kitchen counter and, b) when during the day/week a patient is more or less successful taking his/her meds. For diabetes specifically, our research shows the time element may be partially due to variations in dosing regimens and meal schedules. Further, studies have shown that involving caregivers can also increase adherence. The skyrocketing rate of diabetes and pre-diabetes in the U.S. is a major wakeup call. mHealth, armed with AI, has the potential to change the way diabetic patients engage with and take control of their health.