Pills on counterIt’s easy to miss a few doses of medications, even when you’re taking just one or two. Imagine the complexity involved with a whole litany of daily medications, all at varying times and in different regimens throughout the day.

The World Health Organizations has estimated roughly 50% of all medication is not taken as prescribed. It’s no surprise that medication adherence is a real barrier to when it comes to improving health. With the growth of digital health, there has been a lot of interest in using technology like apps & text messaging in medication adherence programs.

A recent meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine investigated the role of using text messaging for medication adherence.

This meta-analysis reviewed 16 randomized controlled trials with over 3000 total patients. 2-way communication (between provider and patient), and daily messages were seen in the majority of trials. They performed a pooled analysis of The authors found that text messaging significantly improved adherence with an odds ratio of 2.11 (95% CI, 1.52-2.93; P < .001). Interestingly, text-messaging characteristics did not appear to alter the behavior (i.e. personalized, 2-way communication, etc). They estimated mobile text messaging could improve adherence rate to 68% from 50%, which would really be a clinically meaningful improvement. We have covered other studies using text messaging to support healthy behaviors. The mActive study used pedometer, paired health app, and adaptive text messaging to increase activity with positive results. However, we’re also seeing a growing number of studies that use much simpler, standardized, daily messaging to support healthy behaviors. For example, one Australian study found impressive benefits by sending daily messages about healthy behaviors to patients with heart disease. This meta-analysis as well as other studies also hint at some low hanging fruit that could be achieved with fairly simple interventions. Given the ubiquitous nature of cell phones, it's easy to see how a simple notification could help keep individuals on track with daily tasks, be it taking medications on time, improving activity, and hopefully even more innovative medical uses in the future.