- Patients who get text prompts to refill their medications are more likely to adhere to treatment regimens than those who don’t, a new study in the journal mHealth authored by mPulse Mobile and Kaiser Permanente finds.
- The three-month pilot program looked at refill rates for 88,340 partially compliant and noncompliant Medicare patients of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, a large integrated health system. While all of the patients received phone, secure email and robo-call reminders to order refills, 12,272 also got text messages.
- Slightly more than 44% of those in the text message group refilled their medicines versus 30% in the control group.
Refill reminder texts were sent on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to permit time for patients to respond. Of those who then refilled their medication, 38% did so within two hours, 49% within 24 hours and the rest following the 24-hour reminder, the study said.
The researchers also measured user experience. A majority of patients receiving text message reminders were neutral (1,812), followed by positive (1,057), very positive (434), negative (301) and very negative (5).
“The program results far exceeded our expectations,” the study said. “Throughout the 3-month program, the response rate was around 37%, and the 3-month average refill request rate was 18%. We had also expected that since this was an older patient population the response time span might be stretched out a little longer, but this was not the case with over 80% of refill requests received within 8 hours of the initial reminder.”
Future initiatives combining demographic data and elements such as past refill behavior and barriers to adherence could help to target populations that stand to benefit most from text messaging, the researchers said.
Nonadherence is a serious problem that can result in poorer patient outcomes and higher costs if a patient’s condition worsens and requires additional interventions. Providers have tried a variety of tactics to increase compliance, from email reminders to automatic 30-day or 90-day refills. An earlier study found that patients who participated in CVS Health’s ReadyFill prescription refill program had higher rates of medication adherence than a control group who did not.
Increasingly, texting is also a product of necessity, as young people let phone calls go directly to voice mail. “The beauty of it is that it allows for continuity of care in between visits,” John Bender, a family physician in Fort Collins, Colorado, and board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told Healthcare Dive in an interview last year.
In a Zebra Technologies survey released this week, 99% of nurse managers said they expect to use text messaging by 2022 to improve staff communications and patient engagement.