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8/17/2011
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Facebook App Reminds Transplant Patients To Take Meds

Integration of electronic health record with social network app helps kidney transplant patients stay on their medication schedules.

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The University of Iowa Children's Hospital is getting ready to launch a Facebook page that will monitor teenage and young adult kidney transplant patients in an effort to get them to take their medications on time. The hospital will use prescription information from its electronic health record (EHR) system to populate the site with the list of medicines each patient is taking, and how many times daily they should be taken.

The initiative, which is been developed by Dr. Patrick Brophy, director of the division of pediatric nephrology, dialysis, and transplantation, along with the hospital's technology department, was borne out of Brophy's frustration that many of his teenage kidney transplant patients were not taking their medications after surgery.

"One of the biggest problems we confront is that after we've performed kidney transplants on our teenage patients, the issue with these kids is non-adherence to taking their medications," Brophy told InformationWeek Healthcare. "What we know about these kids is that it's more common for this teenage group to lose their kidney transplants due to non-adherence than any other group. I want these kids to stay off of dialysis and keep their transplants for a long time."

Still, Brophy said he understands that teenagers simply don't want to take their medications, especially when they feel better after their kidney transplants and think they're invincible. Furthermore, they have a lot of medications to keep track of.

"They don't want to feel different from their peers. For many of these kids they take a minimum of three different medications daily and a maximum of up to 10, and some of those medications are twice daily," Brophy observed.

The brainchild for the site is Brophy's son, Michael, a 15-year-old who overheard his father complaining that his patients were not taking their medications. Michael suggested establishing a Facebook site as a way to lure the teenagers to follow their medications while logging onto a site popular among teens.

Still in its pilot phase, the Iowa MedMinder application has been developed to customize medication information from each patient's EHRs. Each user is assigned a password to access their specific information. Patients will open a popup box on their Facebook page listing all of the medications they need to take that day and be prompted to click on the medications they have taken. The information is then uploaded to the hospital's servers and relayed to their physicians. Additionally, these patients' biologic drug levels are measured by their physicians during frequent follow-up visits.

So far 15 patients, ranging in ages from 13 to 21, have signed up for the program. The Facebook page is scheduled to go live next week, and the plan is to solicit other centers that are interested in participating with the hope of establishing a nationwide network of transplant patients interested in monitoring their medication intake.

"Using social media in medicine is still in its infancy," Brophy said. "I think if we can maintain privacy, tools like Facebook and maybe even Twitter are going to be integral in how we provide healthcare in this country."

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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