In February of this year JAMA published a study showing that texting doubles the odds of medication adherence, improving rates by 50-67%.

The study showed that almost 75% of adults are non-adherent to their medication orders in one or more ways, costing the healthcare industry $300 billion annually.  Reasons for non-adherence range and include health literacy, disorganization, low self-efficacy and forgetfulness.  Forgetfulness notably contributes to 75% of non-adherence.

Texting, as the preferred method of communication for most adults (link to texting blog post), can have an immediate and profound impact on improving medication adherence, one of the most costly problems in healthcare.

One of the arguments that is sometimes leveraged against texting is that it is too impersonal for healthcare, that texting somehow trivializes care delivery.  I would argue the opposite, and the medication adherence data is a great example of why.  Secure texting solutions like OhMD give patients a direct means of contact with their doctor’s office, without the hassle of looking up a phone number, navigating the voice menu, likely leaving a message, and waiting on a reply back at some later point in time.  If I have a question about my prescription, I can send it directly via OhMD and get a personal response.  27% of non-adheres in the study found it difficult to cut through all the information that comes with their prescription medications, and secure texting is a means of eliminating any uncertainty around dosage, drug interactions and prescription safety.

A separate JAMA study looked into medication adherence for a group of patients diagnosed with Coronary heart disease (CHD).  CHD is one of the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, accounting for over 385,000 deaths per year in the United States and costing the system approximately $108.9 billion dollars. Gaps in medication adherence have strong, adverse outcomes for CHD patients, yet medication non-adherence for heart attack patients ranges from 13% to 61%.  The study, conducted through the University of Sydney, sent a group of patients with CHD four text messages per week for six months in addition to usual care. These text messages provided advice, motivational reminders, and lifestyle support to positively influence behaviors.

At the conclusion of the six month study the intervention patients had lower levels of bad cholesterol, lower systolic blood pressure and lower body mass index. After six months, there was also a reduction in the number of smokers among the intervention group, and a reported increase in physical activity.  The majority of participants reported the text messages to be useful (91%) and easy to understand (97%).

As the preferred method of communication for most adults, texting can be both a practical and highly personal tool in healthcare delivery.  Patient engagement via text has a broad array of applications, and medication adherence is just one example of how we can improve care delivery and health outcomes by leveraging this simple concept.