Written by Dr Simon Bourne, Chief Executive Officer at my mhealth
Medical adherence is a major issue in the UK. It tragically leads to increased morbidity rates, while simultaneously puts pressure and burdens our healthcare system financially. This is a fact.
But what if technology holds the key to unlocking a future of possibilities and opportunities? One that would save both lives, and money.
It is important to understand what we mean by poor medical adherence. Firstly, it is probably much more common than you think – you may have even been a culprit without even being aware. Poor medication adherence refers to any situation where a patient is not taking their medications as prescribed by their physicians. This may include forgetting to fill prescriptions, taking medications at the wrong time of day, taking them incorrectly, or not at all. In fact, most people have been, or are currently culprits without even knowing it. Education and access to information is clearly a big part of the problem.
The truth is, taking medications and using medical devices can be complicated. Reading labels and instructions can be daunting, especially if you are newly diagnosed, overwhelmed by a new condition or are feeling unwell. In addition, there are a number of variants for particular medical devices that deliver medication, such as inhalers for the treatment of asthma, meaning if patients choose to search for their equipment to find instructions online, they run the risk of following incorrect guidance and misusing their device, leading to poor deposition of the medication.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) research, it is estimated that 50% of patients with chronic illness do not take medications as prescribed. This tragically leads to increased patient morbidity, increased hospitalisations and healthcare utilisation. Further, poor adherence to medication is estimated to incur costs of approximately $100 billion per year globally, which is approximately 1.5% of global healthcare spending. This translates to an eye-watering £2bn in NHS spending in the UK. That is a lot of money and hints that there is a much larger issue at stake.
A staggering 50% of patients with chronic illnesses do not take medications as prescribed. This is extremely problematic for a number of reasons. Most notably, if these patients are not taking their medication for their condition then despite their best efforts and good intentions of going to the doctor, their health is not being optimised. Secondly, this is an alarming amount of medical resources that is being wasted and the financial burden on our healthcare system is extraordinary.
Technology and digital therapeutics gives personalised medical support to meet the specific needs of patients. These impacts caused by poor medical adherence can be reduced through technologies such as validated and approved digital therapeutics and virtual patient consultations. In fact, widespread technology implementation will save the NHS billions.
In exclusively showing patients the relevant information for their health requirements, such as demonstration videos of how to use their specific asthma inhaler, as opposed to a number of different inhalers, the margin for errors in use is reduced by 80%. In addition patients are not overwhelmed with irrelevant information and can instead focus on learning the specifics related to their health condition.
Evidence-based digital therapeutics is an example of where to start addressing the issue. It increases efficiency and fosters patient knowledge and in turn confidence for accurate and effective self-management. Similarly, reporting mechanisms and mobile health apps demonstrates how technology can future proof administering care and contribute to the recovery of the NHS post-pandemic.
Technology is the solution and will help us save lives and money. Armouring patients with the right information at the time when they need it the most ensures that they are prepared and set up for success. Personalised medicine requires personalised education and this is something where digital therapeutics can excel. In doing so, technology can unlock medical adherence and save the NHS millions.