It’s hard to keep to a medication régime. Most of us (75% according to one survey) fail to keep to them exactly, and many don’t stick to them even approximately. The health and financial costs of non-compliance are huge: for the latter, €100bn in the US annually according to the same source. [Update: For a moving example of the human costs, see Kathy's comment below.] One good reason for keeping us expensively in hospital is that it’s often the only way of ensuring that we do take our pills.
Can anything be done about this?
I’ve been stewing an idea that pharmacies should issue a standardised one-page reminder calendar with every prescription.
Here’s a very rough first draft:
That’s a pretty low-technology approach. It is being overtaken by Progress. There are now lots of smartphone apps that will remind you when to take a pill.
From a very cursory search, I found eight, and there are surely many more. In alphabetical order and with no recommendation:
There is a problem with all of them. The kind of patients willing to enter a complicated medication régime into an app are precisely those least in need of its reminders. We need something reliably usable by forgetful, non-geeky seniors. This means the data has to be entered not the users but by medical professionals: typically by pharmacists and nurses.
There are many possible ways of getting the data into the apps. Web pages and text messages would be simple, but there are security issues. A more secure route would be to print the schedule out in the pharmacy as an Aztec code and read it in – supervised – using the smartphone’s camera. The smartphone RFID readers I enthused about for museum data don’t seem to have taken off.
The precondition for any scheme is standardisation of the data interchange format. One of the aims of health IT programmes is to make prescriptions quicker and less error-prone. The common prescription format presumably includes dosage. Extending this to communication with smartphone apps looks feasible and worthwhile.