As smartphones and tablets become more popular, a new report shows the potential those devices have for improving health care.
As we reported earlier this week, both doctors and patients are becoming interested in people using online tools to help them diagnose their own conditions.
Many doctors say that when combined with the guidance of a medical professional, those tools can help patients make better decisions regarding their care.
Patients typically go to websites for that purpose, but as the mobile health app market grows, there are also many smartphone and tablet apps they can use to track symptoms and research conditions.
There’s also another area in which mobile apps can benefit both patients and providers: helping patients take their prescribed medications.
Forgetfullness and other issues often prevent patients, especially those with chronic conditions, from adhering to their medication plans, according to a recent report from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
Among adults age 40 and over taking medication for chronic conditions, just 24% hadn’t missed a dose, failed to refill a prescription or stopped taking medication early over the past 12 months. In comparison, another 24% “mostly” adhere to the plans laid out by their doctors, while the remaining 52% failed to follow those plans multiple times over the past year.
The top reason, cited by 40% of those who failed to follow doctors’ orders: They simply forgot.
Help from mobile apps
Educating patients on why medication adherence is important can help avoid those mistakes, but mobile reminder apps offer another effective method for getting patients to take their medicine, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.
Medication reminder apps are plentiful — researchers found more 160 pieces of software across the three major mobile platforms (iOS, Android and BlackBerry). Most work by sending a notification to the user’s device when it’s time to take medication.
Many apps also include more advanced functionality, including:
- Support for complex medication instructions
- Built-in medication database
- Ability for a patient’s doctor to input data, and
- A companion website that can also be used to see schedules and input data.
As with other mobile and web-based healthcare tools, it stands to reason that some options are more effective than others. Doctors can help by getting familiar with the apps that are available and recommending the best to patients who might benefit from them.