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Feb 26, 2016

Texting Programs Improve Medication Adherence in Patients with Chronic Disease

A recent study suggests that text messaging programs double the odds of medication adherence in adults with chronic disease.

Texting programs may be a key to chronic disease management, according to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed 16 recent trials on text messaging to promote medication adherence, which means taking medications as prescribed. More than 2,700 patients were included in the analysis. All patients took medication for chronic diseases such as heart disease, HIV, asthma and diabetes.

Through the clinical trials, patients were randomly assigned to either text messaging programs or standard care, which included information on chronic disease management. Interventions lasted anywhere from one to four months, during which time researchers tracked medication adherence.

Overall, researchers found that text messaging more than doubled the odds of medication adherence in patients with chronic diseases. In other words, patients receiving text reminders were more than twice as likely to take their medications as prescribed than those who didn’t. Although text message programs differed slightly among studies, text message characteristics didn’t significantly impact medication adherence. For example, personalized texts that addressed patients by name were no more effective than universal medication reminders.

The take-home message, as authors explain, is that text messaging has great potential when it comes to chronic disease management. Medication adherence is crucial for the management of chronic diseases, yet only 50% of patients take their medications consistently as prescribed. Poor medication adherence can increase risk for serious complications.

However, experts also highlight the need for additional research on the topic. Many times, medication adherence is measured through surveys, which are not always accurate. Most studies have also been smaller with relatively short follow-up periods. Through larger, well designed studies, experts hope to better understand the impact of texting programs on outcomes for patients with chronic disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is medication adherence?
  • Medication adherence means taking the proper dose of medication at the right time and in the right way for as long as you're supposed to. Taking a medication incorrectly or not at all can render the drug ineffective, or worse, have a negative effect on your health.
  • How can patients help improve medication adherence on their own?

  • Patients can help improve adherence by understanding how their medications work, taking their medications at the same time(s) each day, using notes or alarms as reminders to take medications, and allowing family or friends to help support them.

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