News Feature | May 30, 2014

Apps Help Elderly Adhere To Meds

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Medication Reminder Apps Help Elderly

Despite the fact that they had no previous experience using mobile technology, 99 seniors in a recent study showed apps can increase medication adherence in any age group.

In a recent study, 99 senior citizens participated by testing their skills with the ALICE app for smartphones and tablets. ALICE gives users a space for storing information about prescriptions, instructions from a physician, pictures of medications, a system of alerts and reminders, and a monitoring feature wherein the patient would indicate having taken medication which would then be transmitted to a caregiver.

“With the growth in use of tablets and smartphones, various interventions have been designed to improve adherence and it has been found that such tools are effective and help to increase patient independence,” study authors José Joaquín Mira PhD and Isabel Novarro (among others) from Miguel Hernández University, Elche, Spain wrote. “However, these apps have various limitations: they are conceived for patients familiar with these technologies, they have not been written for elderly patients (assuming that they would not benefit from this type of tool), and in most cases, patients have not been consulted about the design.”

According to Mobi Health News, the study had favorable results. Although the app did not help to lower medication errors, where patients took the wrong pill or dose, it did increase adherence to their medication schedules. Self-reported treatment adherence, measured on the Morisky Medication Adherence Scale, increased by 28.3 percent between the control and experiment groups and the rate of missed doses was 27.3 percent lower.

“The ALICE app improves adherence, helps reduce rates of forgetting and of medication errors, and increases perceived independence in managing medication. Elderly patients with no previous experience with information and communication technologies are capable of effectively using an app designed to help them take their medicine more safely,” write authors.

In the experiment group, who had never used computers, smartphones and tablets, the majority (55 percent) actually had better adherence scores than those that had experience with the technology. Of these seniors, 30 said ALICE improved their medication use and only 6 said it didn’t help at all.

“Most apps have been designed for patients with less complex health problems and/or experience with ICTs,” the study authors conclude. “This study should change the expectations of developers and mobile phone companies, encouraging them to develop apps and devices suited to older patients with multimorbidity who are normally excluded from studies thought to be too complex, because such tools could improve the capacity of these individuals to manage their illnesses.”