Medication adherence has historically been a challenge in healthcare, especially with chronic disease patients, where adherence levels are as low as 50%. Although this issue has been a problem for decades, no impactful solution has been introduced. There have been attempts to improve adherence, with examples such as digital pill dispensers that feature embedded alerts, and peripheral devices such as watches that notify the patient and/or the caretaker whenever medication is due. To date, uptake of both has been limited due to price and poor user experience.
In recent years, the market has moved towards services that improve medication adherence including solutions such as Pillpack and Medisafe – both proving to be somewhat more effective compared to earlier initiatives. However, what is referred to as “precision medicine”, will likely disrupt the market for medication adherence services in 2016. Qualcomm Life shared some of their ideas at this year’s mHealth Summit, highlighting meaningful use of sensors to accurately measure medication adherence. Merging a number of technologies from motion sensing to vital sign monitoring, the company is able to track whether a patient has taken their medicine and if the patient is prescribed the right dosage. Remote assessment occurs through a patch-like product and is discrete and unobtrusive. Chief Medical Officer and VP of Qualcomm Life Dr. James Mault, who presented on this topic, specifically mentioned chronic disease treatment as a target for this product.
In order to ensure proper medication adherence, physicians must have access to the patient at home. The “big brother” element, which in most cases is perceived as something negative, becomes the vital factor in this case. The authority figure of clinicians is repeatedly emphasized when addressing patient engagement, and extending the reach of clinicians will significantly improve adherence levels. Payers also have a great interest in increasing adherence levels especially in cases where the medication has a very high price point.
The most encouraging aspect of precision medicine is the meaningful use of technology such as the wearable patch used with motion sensors and vital sign monitoring. While there is nothing revolutionary around the hardware, the use-case truly goes beyond what healthcare has been capable of in the past, which in return will engage patients and providers in actually using innovative technologies.