Meta Analysis Confirms Text Message Reminders Boost Medication Adherence

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A team of researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Oxford, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have published findings from a meta analysis reviewing 16 studies evaluating the effectiveness of text message-based medication adherence programs. The researchers included only randomized control trials in their review and focused on studies measuring adherence improvements among chronically ill adults. In total, 16 studies were included in the analysis spanning a variety of patient demographics, text message programs, and chronic diseases.

Of the 16 trials included in the review, eight incorporated technology that provided computer-generated personalized text messages for patients, while another eight incorporated standard daily reminder messages. The duration of the studies varied, but average duration was 12 weeks. An important note is that medication adherence was not independently verified, and in all cases self-reporting was relied on to measure improvements. Still, the improvements were significant.

A total of 2,742 patients were included across all 16 studies and researchers found that using text message-based reminders “approximately doubles the odds of medication adherence.” This improvement was measured consistently across varying patient demographics, chronic diseases, and text message programs. Researchers concluded the study by recommending additional studies focused on uncovering types of text message interventions that are most effective, as well as longer studies that measure sustained changes to adherence, and studies that measure an overall effect on clinical outcomes.

Medication adherence was a major focal point within the early growth of digital health investments. Grouped under the subcategory of digital therapies, startups like Mango Health saw a 32 fold increase in investment activity between 2011 and 2014. In more recent years, patient engagement startups have taken the lion’s share of VC investment dollars, as the care delivery system in the US slowly shifts from a fee-for-service to a value-based reimbursement model, and controlling chronic disease in the community becomes intrinsically tied to maintaining low health service utilization rates.


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