Is This The Cure For Drug Compliance Problems?

drug compliance

Did you take your medication as prescribed? Are you sure?

Compliance with drug therapy seems simple, but true compliance is surprisingly elusive. Studies suggest that approximately 50% of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed, and the impact is profound. In the United States, lack of compliance is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths a year and account for at least 10% of hospitalizations. The cost is projected to be up to $300 billion annually.

Drug compliance is clearly a problem, where existing solutions have been shown to have a relatively modest effect. Enter the digital pill.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced the approval of a pill that digitally tracks if patients have taken their medication. Sound promising, but is it a pill that Americans are willing to swallow?

We surveyed just over 1,000 U.S. adults and told them that “The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first digital pill designed to track whether patients have taken their medication as directed. The pill is fitted with a tiny ingestible sensor that communicates with a patch worn by the patient — the patch transmits medication data to a smartphone app which the patient can voluntarily upload to a database for their doctor and other authorized persons to see.” Then, we asked if they would be willing to try it themselves.

Six-in-ten said they would try a digital pill, but not without some reservations. Fully 85% of all Americans said they would have concerns about safety. And three quarters agreed “I am concerned that tracking pills will be a step towards punishing patients who don’t take their medication as prescribed.” Those who were not interested in trying it were more likely to describe the idea as “scary” and “unproven.” But, there were also positive reasons why six-in-ten were willing to try it.

Among those interested in trying a digital pill, 86% agreed “I think it would be helpful to be able to track whether I remembered to take a medication my doctor prescribed.” Those who were positive were more likely to describe a digital pill as a “breakthrough in healthcare,” “cutting edge” and “exciting.”

Assuming safety can be proven, the issue of who controls the data and how it is used is likely to make or break the long-term acceptance of digital pills. There is a strong desire for self-control over the data. Seven-in-ten of those who would not try a digital pill agreed “I would not want my doctor tracking whether I take a medication or not.” And half of those who would try it also agreed.

While it is encouraging that six-in-ten are willing to try a therapy that is, as yet, unproven, it would appear that how privacy concerns and control over the data is handled, will determine if American’s fully embrace this method.

Compliance is a decision that is made by patients every day. Understanding their desires and, especially, their concerns will be critical to developing effective messaging. That messaging will have to be extensively tested with not only patients, but all the other stakeholders, including physicians, pharmacists and insurers.

With the costs so extreme and the potential health benefits so great, this will be a very high stakes communication challenge. Those who have the greatest insights will be those who win.

To learn more about America’s reaction to the digital pill, contact us.

You might also be interested in our ongoing series on innovation in health. We’ve looked at various forms of digital health, such as virtual visits, as well as patient and physician perspectives on artificial intelligence in health. And, watch this space for our new whitepaper on American’s reactions to precision medicine.

This is a transformative time to be in healthcare. Join us on this exciting adventure!