Medication adherence apps: 
An update

Technology Forum

Medication nonadherence continues to plague the health care system, threatening patients’ safety and driving up costs by billions of dollars annually. Health care providers dispense medications every day in the hope that patients understand the necessity of following their prescribed therapy. Patient surveys, however, tell a different story. Patients admit to skipping doses, not picking up prescriptions, switching to lower or higher doses than prescribed, and discontinuing prescriptions early.

Pharmacists’ role

Patients may not take medications as prescribed for a variety of reasons, including forgetfulness, inconvenience, and cost. A respectable patient–provider relationship can motivate patients to take their medications appropriately. Pharmacists can be a great resource to reassure patients of the importance of medication therapy on long-term health and can recommend various solutions that may help improve patient medication adherence.

An everyday tool 

In this era of sophisticated technology, many people have grown to rely on technology for daily activities, especially the smartphone. According to 2013 Nielson data, “nearly two-thirds of U.S. phone subscribers—65%, to be specific—are now using smartphones, [and] of those subscribers, 52% are now using Android devices, while 41% use iOS, and 7% use other platforms.”1

Nielson data also show that these smartphone users devote a monthly average of 34 hours to their mobile applications,2 a few minutes of which could easily assist with medication adherence and provide useful medical information. Medication reminder apps have been available for public use for some time now (see Table 1). As long as pharmacists and providers emphasize awareness, medication adherence apps may become an everyday tool for patient education.

As pharmacists become more familiar with mobile technology, they can help educate patients about tools for monitoring adherence, managing diabetes, and monitoring blood pressure, among other care processes. Patients who are eager or early adopters may be more likely to use adherence apps and become champions in using technology to improve their health.