Commentary

Big Tech: Opportunity Is Knocking On The Adherence Door

Taking medicine is part of most adults’ daily routine. In fact, nearly three of five American adults take at least one medication a day, and the number of patients taking five or more prescription medications has more than doubled in the past decade. But for many patients, taking their medicine as their healthcare provider prescribes is a real issue. And about half of patients with chronic diseases don’t take their medication properly. 

It’s time to radically disrupt this phase of the journey and crack the code for behavior change for good. Adherence to medications as prescribed is critical to one’s health and longevity. Not to mention the positive economic impact it can have on the health system at large.

Activating technology for adherence

New technologies have the power to serve up engaging patient-friendly behavior-modification experiences that will help motivate patients to comply and adhere to their medications and recommended dosing. With big tech’s connected consumer technologies, healthcare providers have a foundation that is easier to build upon. And their ability to create intuitive solutions, that leverage AI, will help them understand where the patient is and offer a personalized experience that can be served up at the patient’s point of need—working specifically to motivate individual behaviors at the right time and drive the right behavior.

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Making routine routine

MHealth is exploding with health apps and telehealth tools designed to improve adherence, including text and SMS messaging platforms and apps programmed to remind the patient to take his or her prescriptions. Apple is working to build the Apple Watch into a medical-monitoring device and establish its HealthKit as a standard for health-data storage, which will further connect all of one’s motivational tools and house them in the one device that stores one’s entire life. While this seems really simple by integrating health seamlessly into one’s life, it intuitively is promoting healthy routines. 

Virtual adherence

A number of technology companies are investing in telemedicine or telecare. Companies like American Well and Teladoc have done the heavy lifting by meeting HIPAA compliance requirements and ensuring proper security measures, thereby opening the doors for big tech; Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google, and others can venture into virtual care that extends beyond diagnosis and treatment, offering new solutions that will further drive adherence and health routines.

Building collective caring

And consider the power of the Facebook community—it’s reach and scale is unprecedented. It can create communities for every condition, which can act as a surrogate support group to drive better behavior. Facebook has the potential to build a virtual Weight Watchers-like model, where people can support and help one another stay on their medicine in an environment that is already part of their everyday lives.

Driving sticky behavior requires empathy

All of these technologies can activate real behavior change. However, without truly understanding patients and their journey toward living with a long-term condition, no technology solution will succeed. To win in changing health behavior, you must employ empathy, understand the cultural landscape (as to how people use their devices), and then create user-centered design products and platforms that get to the root of patients’ health challenges. Big tech has a great chance of changing things for the better because their products are already inextricably woven into people’s lives.

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