Meds management revolution not ‘appening

skeleton with laptop and phone

Current evidence for any clinical benefit from medication management apps and sensors is limited, experts say 

The use of medication apps in clinical practice is hindered by a lack of evidence for their benefit, concerns over safety and privacy, and the sheer number of apps already available. 

This is the conclusion of Australian experts who recently reviewed the filed of consumer digital technologies such as wearable sensors and management apps. 

“Many innovations for improving medication management with consumer health technology are in development, but there are still significant challenges relating to adoption,” writes pharmacy academic Elisabeth Roughead in a recent MJA supplement Expanding the evidence base in digital health.

“Digital technologies, such as medication management apps and wearable sensor devices can potentially support medication management by consumers. However, despite this potential, and the launch of smartphones more than a decade ago, consumer-directed digital health tools are seldom used in clinical practice,” she said in the article, co-written by Andre Andrade.

One of the barriers potentially restricting uptake is the sheer number of digital technology products that are available, they said, highlighting the difficulty in “navigating the overcrowded market.”

“A review conducted in 2017 identified more than 800 medication management apps designed to support medication adherence, available from the Windows, iTunes, Google Play and Blackberry app stores.”

Studies also suggested the variability in the quality of these apps, they added.

“While all apps claimed to support adherence, user testing of 144 of the highest ranking apps found 9% were unable to send reliable medication reminders and fewer than half (40%) were able to send reminders for three complex medication schedules (such as weekly or alternate day dosing.”

In addition, only 61% tracked missed doses or doses taken and just under half provided alerts for when to refill a prescription.

They also found that some of the situations where medication adherence is particularly important and problematic – such as clinical trials, cancer chemotherapy, treatment of some mental illnesses and long term antibiotic use for tuberculosis, were those requiring additional auditing mechanisms or alternative digital strategies.

“While there is potential for medication management apps to help consumers adhere to their medication regimens, widespread adoption cannot yet be recommended,” the authors concluded.

“Rigorous research and sound clinical judgement are needed to move consumer technology forward.”

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1 Comment

  1. Deirdre Criddle

    Behavioral change is not binary. Pharmacists must embrace technology – but make haste slowly! These new shiny Apps can be life changing – if the right tool is in the hands of the right person. I’ve been immersing myself in Risk tools – the stuff which sits ‘under the bonnet’ of every App. It’s opened up a whole world of the science which seeks authenticity through validity, sensitivity and specificity. As pharmacists – guardians of QUM, we owe it to our patients to understand the evidence underneath the Apps promising assistance with medicines management. Only the then can we be confident of the quality, and ensure the benefits offered are fit-for-purpose, and patient-centred.

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