Patients with high blood pressure remembered to take their medication more often through the use of a mobile phone application, according to a recent study conducted in part by the GW Medical Center.
The study, completed over a 7-month period, measured the ability of the Pill Phone application to improve medication adherence among patients with hypertension, particularly within under-served and urban communities.
Patients in the study showed a high level of acceptance and a sustained use of the Pill Phone application, which provides visual and audible medication dosage reminders, tracking and storage of dosage records, image displays of prescription pills and access to real-time information about potential drug side effects and interactions.
An estimated one-third to one-half of all patients in the United States do not take their medications as prescribed by their doctors, according to a 2009 report by the New England Healthcare Institute. Previous studies on hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, have showed that patients frequently only take 46 percent of prescribed pills.
The GW study focused on hypertension in D.C. because the city has the highest rates of end-stage kidney disease in the nation, which is usually caused by hypertension, according to an annual report of the U.S. Renal Data System.
All of the patients in the study were African American, a population four times more likely to have kidney disease than white individuals and comprise half of the District's residents.
"We always try to address a need in the community," said Erica Whinston, senior manager for government affairs at wireless researcher Qualcomm. Whinston runs Qualcomm's Wireless Reach Initiative, which strives to improve the lives of under-served groups through wireless technologies. "This project was a very relevant thing to look at for the D.C. area," she said.
Health care providers also could utilize the Pill Phone to remotely monitor patient adherence through a secure website.
With funding primarily from Qualcomm, the study was conducted in collaboration with messaging platform VOCEL, wireless service provider Cricket Communications and One Economy, a non-profit organization that delivers technology and information to low-income communities worldwide.
Clark Ritchie, chief technology officer at One Economy, said projects like the Pill Phone that use technology in a collaborative way can help improve health care in the U.S.
"As this country focuses on healthcare as a priority, it is easy to focus on the abstract, but in reality it requires a combination of multiple players coming together to show demonstrable results," Ritchie said.