NY heart transplant patients get text medication reminders

By Brian Dolan
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CareSpeak CommunicationsThe Pediatric Heart Transplant Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital has tapped CareSpeak Communications for a two-way text message-enabled medication adherence program for teenage heart transplant patients and their families. CareSpeak's program aims to help patients take their medications at the right time and as prescribed in an effort to decrease the likelihood of organ rejection.

About 30,000 organ transplants took place in the US last year, and still more than 100,000 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant right now, according to CareSpeak. Following a transplant patients much adhere to a daily medication regimen that includes immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives. Non-adherence could lead to hospitalization, the need for a new transplant or even death.

Last November CareSpeak announced the results of a pilot at Mt. Sinai Medical Center where 41 teenage liver transplant patients tested out CareSpeak's text message-powered medication reminder service. The medication schedule for the program’s 41 patients ranged from three different pills once a day to three different pills twice a day. The service helped increase adherence, but more importantly, it had a positive effect on outcomes: While 12 of the 41 patients had experienced rejection episodes during the year before starting the program, only two patients had such an episode during the program.

“Despite extensive educational programs for families and pediatric heart transplant recipients, significant medication noncompliance still occurs with alarming frequency, particularly with adolescents, which can prove deadly,” Dr. Linda Addonizio, the Director of the Program for Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Heart Failure and Transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, said in a statement about the recent partnership announcement. ”The outlook for long-term survival in non-compliant patients can be as low as 30 percent, compared to 90 percent survival in compliant pediatric heart transplant recipients.”

According to CareSpeak, more than half of all teenage live transplant recipients are non-adherent and are four times more likely than adult patients to take their meds at the wrong time or not take them at all.

Here's how CareSpeak works:

1. Patients and/or caregivers receive a text alert that reads something like: “Joe it’s 8:15am, time to take 1 pill Prograf 1mg. Press REPLY, enter CARE 1 and press SEND”

2. If the patient doesn’t confirm medication intake within a pre-determined amount of time (e.g. 30 minutes), a follow up escalation text alert is sent to as many as two caregivers, alerting them that the patient didn’t report taking their medication. The caregiver message includes the patient’s cell phone number allowing for immediate response.

3. Clinicians can access an on-line dashboard at any time to view the patients’ self-reported compliance, frequency of escalation alerts to caregivers, and can also receive weekly e-mail reports.

“Before this program, we had only the power of people trying to educate the children and their families about the deadly nature of noncompliance,” said Dr. Addonizio. “Now we have the ability to give these adolescents a safety net to help them become responsible.”

For more on the deal between CareSpeak and The Pediatric Heart Transplant Program, read the full press release

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