In the U.S. alone, we spend up to $300 billion extra every year in unnecessary healthcare costs, simply because people do not take their medications as prescribed. When you consider that more than half of the people in the country live with at least one chronic condition, it’s easy to see how this can be a big problem. You can get all sorts of devices to help you remember to take your pills, from pillboxes with timers to smartphone apps. But do they make a difference?
That was the question posed by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. They undertook a study of more than 53,000 patients enrolled in CVS Caremark. The study looked at low-cost devices: pill bottles with digital timer caps and pill strips with toggles. A control group used standard pill bottles. Patients were selected randomly across the three groups, but groups had equal numbers of patients based on their condition, as well as based on how often they had to take their medications. The study ran for two years.
The end result? There was no significant difference in the adherence among any of the groups in the study. The authors of the report suggest that additional interventions could improve the results. This is an important step to determine what the real value is of different approaches to increase medication adherence. We need additional studies to see if other strategies, such as connected pill boxes, pill robots, smartphone apps, text messages, or other technology solutions have any significant impact on the problem. Only then will we know if these gadgets can truly make a dent in the expensive problem of missed doses.