Text Messages Remind Grandpa To Take His Meds

Mobile health technology aims to keep older adults healthy and living independently.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

October 18, 2011

4 Min Read

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A Los Angeles-based retirement home company has been awarded a $77,150 grant from the non-profit Center for Technology and Aging for a project that will enable older adults to use cellphone text messaging services to help them remember to take their medication.

"We are excited that the Center for Technology and Aging, which awarded us the grant, provided us with a rare opportunity to apply a mobile technology solution to address the significant problem of medication adherence among seniors," Kari Olson, president of the Front Porch Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Under the new initiative, Front Porch Center will partner with CareSpeak Communications, which provides a two-way short message service (SMS)-based medication reminder service. Seniors will be able to use CareSpeak's medication reminder service with their mobile phones via a texting plan as part of the "Minding Our Meds" project.

The new initiative will engage 150 adults age 50 and older living in Front Porch Center communities to input information regarding their medication regimen into a dashboard. The data will include dosage amounts, what time the medication needs to be taken, and whether pills should be taken before or after a meal.

[Legally, electronic health records are double-edged swords: They protect clinicians from malpractice litigation but also put them at greater risk. See Will Your EHR Land You In Court?]

Additionally, the user will enter the name of a caregiver who can be alerted via text message if the user doesn't respond to the text reminder. The caregiver (who could also be a relative or a friend) can call the user to monitor and follow up with them. CareSpeak can also send medication refill reminder alerts to ensure uninterrupted therapy and allow users to view their adherence calendar online.

"The solution is designed to be simple. A medication reminder text message will prompt you to reply to CareSpeak with a one-digit number to confirm that you took your medicine," Davis Park, director of the Front Porch Center said in an interview. "A non-reply will trigger a text message to the caregiver after a certain designated amount of time. The CareSpeak dashboard is accessed via the Internet to first set up the medication schedule and, if desired, to later review medication adherence results."

CareSpeak's service allows users to:
-- Receive timely reminders to ensure medication is taken as prescribed;
-- Log medication intakes by response text and view adherence calendar online;
-- Get timely refill reminder alerts to ensure uninterrupted therapy; and
-- Involve caregiver(s) by having them receive escalation alerts so they can call a user in case user/patient misses an alert.

"With the aging population trend in the USA, it is important to create simple, affordable, yet effective tools to help seniors and their circle of care manage the seniors' health and wellness better," Srdjan (Serge) Loncar, CareSpeak's president and CEO, said in a statement.

"Medication therapy compliance, monitoring of biometrics, and patient education play a significant part in improving health and quality of life for seniors, and CareSpeak's mobile health platform helps seniors achieve that. CareSpeak's platform, using a ubiquitous, inexpensive technology, helps keep people out of the hospital and living independently."

The award will primarily be used to support the outreach, education, training, and implementation of the project, which will be rolled out in two phases: the first group will begin using the system before Thanksgiving, and the second group will start in January or February 2012.

"We hope to demonstrate that this low-cost, affordable solution on a ubiquitous technology platform, SMS-based texting on cell phones, will help promote independence, wellness, and a high level of comfort with technology. We want to learn how a simple consumer product can indeed help increase medication adherence in a population that badly needs it," Park said.

Mobile health, or mHealth, has captured the attention of the Department of Health and Human Services as a way to use new technologies to advance healthcare. In September, HHS' Text4Health taskforce issued recommendations for health text messaging on mobile phones.

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