Automated calls, nurse support improve cancer drug adherence

With plentiful research indicating that follow-up calls help patients adhere to their medications, Michigan State University compared how patients fared if those calls come from nurses or from robots.

It turns out that patients respond equally well to nurse-led calls and automated calls, according to a study in the Cancer Nursing journal.

Patients who take chemotherapy pills outside the supervised environment of a cancer clinic have complex medication regimes.

"It can be very complicated," lead study author Sandra Spoelstra, MSU assistant professor of nursing, said in a statement Thursday.

In fact, more than 40 percent of patients took too many pills or missed doses with poor adherence.

Michigan State researchers tested three models: the first used only an automated calling system, the second involved automated calls and follow-up calls from nurses with strategies for sticking to their pill regimen, and the third used automated calls and nurse advice on both adhering to their regimen and managing symptoms.

Interestingly enough, all the models showed equal improvement in patient adherence; there was no significant difference.

"The [Automated Voice Response] intervention alone was just as effective as the AVR, plus the nurse intervention, at promoting adherence and managing symptoms from adverse effects," study authors wrote.

The study follows other research in the November Archives of Internal Medicine that found automated calls prompted patients to fill their cholesterol prescriptions with a 16.3 percent increase.

Michigan State study authors encouraged nurses to focus on patient education to help patients understand their regimens and self-management, as well as send medication reminders.

For more information:
- see the research announcement
- here's the study abstract

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