Study: Medication reminder apps improved heart patients’ adherence

By Dave Muoio
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A study recently published in Heart found that coronary heart disease (CHD) patients assigned a smartphone app for medication reminders demonstrated greater adherence than those who did not.

The investigation was conducted by a group of Australian researchers, and included a sample of 163 adults participants with an average age of roughly 58 years. Presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Germany, it also found that there was no significant adherence difference associated with use of an advanced app with interactive and customizable features, or a more “basic” reminder app.

“Currently, there are numerous smartphone applications that claim to improve adherence through programmed regular reminders but very limited evidence that such apps are effective,” the researchers wrote in Heart. “Therefore, we aimed to evaluate, in a randomized clinical trial (RCT), the effectiveness and feasibility of using publicly available high-quality medication reminder apps to improve medication adherence compared with usual care in patients with CHD and to determine whether an app with additional features improved adherence further.”

Participants in the study were randomly assigned to receive either standard care, or instructions and assistance to download one of two freely available medication reminder apps. The first of these included simply daily reminder alerts that were non-interactive and occurred only once with each notification. The second was a more interactive service that included customized reminders and scheduling as well as other features such as refill reminders, adherence statistics, data exportation, and missed dose alerts sent to family members or other peer support.

After the three-month study period, participants who were using one of the apps had significantly higher adherence, as measured using the eight-item Morisky Medication Adherence Scale (p = .008). When comparing scores between the two app groups, however, the difference in adherences scores was not significant. The researchers also saw no significant differences in patients’ clinical outcomes, such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

"It's exciting that a basic app — some of which can be accessed for free —could help improve people's medication use and prevent further cardiovascular complications,” lead author Dr. Karla Santo, of the University of Sydney, said in a statement. “Participants in our trial were followed up after three months but longer term and larger studies are more likely to be able to show benefits or challenges of app usage, as well as the impact on additional measures such as blood pressure and cholesterol.”