One of the biggest challenge pharma marketers face is how to improve patient adherence. Approximately 34% of patients will never fill their first prescription, let alone follow through with a refill. In the age of the smartphone, when everyone is constantly connected to their devices, it makes sense for us to find ways to bring adherence tools into the pockets of patients. Mobile apps that aim to improve medication adherence and post-diagnosis care are becoming more and more popular. But what does it take for an adherence app to really make a difference?
1. Become a part of people’s daily routine. Apps that offer quick daily intake tools and allow users to track daily activity, including medication adherence, are more likely to become a part of people’s daily routine. Have your morning cup of coffee, open your phone to read the news, and get a notification from your adherence app – “Have you taken your pill yet today?” Once the user responds to that notification, the app can provide tailored daily care instructions from the user’s physician. It’s hard to ignore that level of engagement, especially when it’s right on your phone.
2. Give users the ability to track daily care metrics related to their recovery or diagnosis. The best adherence apps should allow users to track daily care in various forms, such as numeric measurements or survey responses, providing the opportunity to measure non-medication activity. Need to track daily symptoms in the un-diagnosed, or measure and trend symptom abatement in patients post-diagnosis? Incorporating a “progress” functionality into your app could allow you to expand your app efforts into both disease awareness and medication adherence uses.
3. Track a user’s trends over time and provide them with insights about their symptoms and medication usage. If users are able to see pain persistence mapped against medication adherence and dosage, and have activity summaries delivered with additional insights based on the collected data, they’ll be more likely to connect the dots between their medication and positive outcomes – which encourages them to continue to refill their prescription. It also provides a brand with valuable insights about how people are using their app long-term.
4. Connect patients with their entire care team. Create a functionality in your app that builds connections between users and their physicians or care institutions by incorporating direct messaging capabilities, and your app will become the place where patients go to get in touch with their physicians (and vice versa). It’s been proven that better patient-physician relationships actually improve patient outcomes, so it’s time for us to commit to opening the lines of communication between doctors and patients. This functionality can even be used to research the impact of the size of care teams on treatment outcomes.
Apps are a powerful tool for marketers to more effectively connect users to their treatments. With the recent release of CareKit – an extension of the ResearchKit and HealthKit platforms – Apple has created a framework that will allow developers to incorporate all of the above elements into their mobile apps. Having a framework like CareKit readily available to build into apps is an excellent start, and will hopefully help accelerate the efforts of pharma to better understand Post-Rx behavior and how patients stay better connected to their treatment and condition. It provides a window into the factors that precede or indicate non-adherent behavior, and can be an asset to marketers and brand teams.
The real measure of success with CareKit will be in how effectively these new apps and tools can collect data and be reintegrated into the marketing process to collect data that is intelligent and actionable for the brand, and at the same time bring improved patient outcomes in the treatment of their conditions.