Do mobile apps have an effect on compliance?

How's today been?

When speaking with clients I am often asked how digital media can improve compliance. The question is not surprising to me; when looking at the statistics I discover how many patients do not comply with their treatment program due to different reasons.

The consequenses of non-compliance

Statistics show that up to 60 percent of patients do not take their medication as prescribed by their health care professional (New England Journal of Medicine). Compliance is crucial in managing a chronic disease; the consequences of non-compliance can be fatal since patients might get worse or they can experience a relapse if not taking their medication as prescribed. Compliance is difficult to address because it is a multifaceted phenomenon. There are many different factors that can cause patients to not comply with a treatment. While some of these factors are within patient control, others are part of the larger healthcare environment. Addressing compliance towards patients is the first step towards increased compliance rates. One way of increasing the result positively is to utilize the power of mobile apps.

What causes non-compliance?

Various surveys try to answer the question that has been on the forefront for pharma for years: “why do patients fail to comply with their medication”? Some of the surveys have found that compliance is not just about forgetting to take medication however several different factors such as not understanding the seriousness of a disease play a role. Patient education has thus proven to be an important step in the process toward improving compliance. Most apps today are largely reminders. It is but one aspect of medication compliance: other aspects that bolster compliance to medication programs are patient activation and empowerment, as well as beliefs about the efficacy and side effects for the prescribed treatments.

Mobile channels are now expected

The study Medication Adherence and mHealth by George Washington University has proven mobile technology to be a helpful tool for patients who often struggle to keep track of their medication schedules. The study shows that patients have come to accept and even expect information delivered via Internet and mobile channels.

Always at hand

One of the most powerful features of a mobile device is simply being ready at hand which potentially makes compliance constantly available to the patient. An example of an app with the purpose of increasing compliance is: How’s today been? This app is a daily tracker and information source for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) launched by Janssen-Cilag in November 2011. The app was developed to help parents track how their child’s day has been. This information is then used by parents when speaking with health care providers since it helps in finding the best ways of adapting to life with ADHD. Moreover the app supports education about ADHD. Since non-compliance is often a result of lack of information regarding the seriousness of a disease, an educational app can resolve the issue of non-compliance.

In my mind a well-designed compliance app is much more than a pill reminder; the ideal healthcare app should not only contain a pill alert but also remind the patient of the seriousness of the disease. By educating patients and/or their relatives on the consequences of non-compliance they are more likely to understand the seriousness of the disease and thus compliance to medication will increase. Moreover mobile apps can, as in the case above, be used as a tool for dialogue between the patient/relative and health care professional.

If you want to learn more about how mobile apps can help improve compliance rates for your brand, give me a call.

Jessica Simonsen, Digital Media Consultant

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