Improving patient medication adherence is a common challenge for the healthcare industry. That’s why we’ve come up with 4 Secret Ingredients pharma mobile health apps need to improve medication adherence and patient outcomes.
Medication non-adherence costs our healthcare system an unconscionable $290 billion each year and the effects are damaging. For example, failure to take prescribed medications costs over $100 billion a year in excess hospitalizations. It is also estimated that nearly one-third of patients never fill their prescriptions, and three out of four Americans do not take their medications as directed. Ouch.
The good news is the majority of patients today are also smartphone users, presenting a pretty ubiquitous opportunity for mobile health solutions to combat the problem of medication non-adherence. But how? How do mobile applications, which let’s be honest face significant challenges, solve real healthcare challenges and achieve widespread adoption? Who is interested in building these applications and administering them? What are the secret ingredients to making these mobile health applications successful?
One industry that’s recognized the need for adherence tools is the pharmaceutical industry. According to a report by Cutting Edge Information, U.S. pharmaceutical companies increased budgets for patient adherence by 281% between 2009 and 2012. However, although there are more than 40,000 mobile healthcare apps available through iTunes, the majority of these health apps provide limited information regarding patient education, medical management, provider-to-patient communication and remote monitoring of multiple chronic conditions. Furthermore, many of these applications are too generic to be effective to increase adherence to the specific drugs pharmaceutical companies produce.
In order for these types of mobile health applications to be successfully developed by pharma in order to increase medication adherence, we have developed our top four secret ingredients that pharma mobile health applications should have to move the needle forward on medication adherence:
1. Support the ability for patients and providers to share information. This seems like a no brainer, but the majority of applications on the market today have not yet mastered the patient-to-provider interface.
2. Actually be prescribed by clinicians. Patients will be much more likely to adopt and use medication adherence apps if a clinician writes a prescription. In a pilot we conducted with a large integrated healthcare system in California, Ayogo’s mobile platform Empower was used to treat patients with class III obesity and was prescribed by trained health educators. As a result, 60% of patients were highly engaged—averaging 3 of 5 care plan tasks daily for 12 weeks. This group lost 17.3lbs vs. 8lbs by the control group, and kept the weight off in subsequent follow-ups. We learned quickly that having clinical support in combination with our mobile application was a key to the pilot’s success.
3. Provide an allow users to access useful, reliable information. Fit2Me for example is a free web-based lifestyle and support tool for patients with Type 2 diabetes that was co-created by Ayogo and pharma power-house Astrazeneca. What’s key to this application? Fit2Me focuses on four key areas of diabetes management – food, activity, support team and treatment support that populates the tool with information that empowers patients for success. Fit2Me offers treatment and appointment reminders, blood sugar trackers, and a personalized treatment kit that includes information about type 2 diabetes and treatment options that they can discuss with their doctor.
4. Apps rooted in behavioral economics and psychology. Patients often fall off the adherence wagon for a variety of reasons. Often it’s due to financial constraints or lack of access to care, but more often than not patients don’t adhere because they simply don’t understand the “doctor’s orders” or lack any kind of emotional connection with the rules set before them. Our brains prefer short-term benefits (like being rewarded with points and prizes) over long term-benefits (like better health). Ayogo’s Empower platform incorporates this idea through behavioral economics, psychology and fun into our technology. Built in progress indications, accountability features and points for progress toward a goal in our applications attack the root cause of medical non-adherence: behavior change (or lack thereof).