E-reminders improve med adherence in patients with chronic conditions

Sending electronic reminders to patients is a simple yet effective way to improve medication adherence of patients with chronic conditions, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The researchers, from several institutions in the Netherlands, noted that one of the primary reasons that patients with chronic conditions have a hard time adhering to long term treatment is forgetfulness. While reminders may help, personal reminders from providers require an extensive time investment, while "reminder packaging" doesn't actively remind patients. The researchers hypothesized that electronic reminders may be a better option.

In what the researchers believed is the first systematic review of e-reminders on patient medical adherence, they studied 13 studies of e-reminders: four short message service reminders, seven audiovisual ones from electronic reminder devices, and two involving pager messages.

The researchers found "significant improvement" in short term (within six month) medical adherence in all but two of the studies, particularly in those that used short message service reminders and electric reminder devices. The long term effect was unclear.

The study noted that further research was needed to investigate how often e-reminders should be sent.  At least one other recent study has questioned whether daily reminders were more effective than weekly ones.

The researchers also surmised that evolving technology will cause the use of reminders by pagers to decrease in favor of ones sent to smartphones. Other recent studies bear this out, with phone reminders found effective for many situations, including epilepsy and flu shots.

They also noted that new technologies will make it possible to tailor reminding both in timing and in content.

"Real time adherence monitoring is now upcoming, offering the possibility to intervene only when patients miss a dose, thus avoiding the reminders becoming routine," the researchers stated.

To learn more:
- here's an abstract of the study
- here's the abstract of the study on frequency of reminders
- here's more information on reminders and flu shots

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