Study shows promise for electronic pill bottle

By Bernie Monegain
11:17 AM

The Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners Healthcare, announced Wednesday encouraging initial findings from a medication adherence study, using a wireless electronic pill bottle to remind patients with high blood pressure to take their medication.

The ongoing study measured a 27 percent higher rate of medication adherence in patients using Internet connected medication packaging and feedback services compared to controls.

The randomized controlled study assessed the impact of the wireless GlowCap developed by Vitality, Inc. GlowCaps fit popular pill bottles and signal patients with light and sound when it is time to take the medication inside. An embedded wireless connection enables the GlowCap to respond to the patient with automated calls for any missed dose, weekly progress reports and refill reminders. GlowCaps also share adherence with physicians and a social network if the patient chooses.

"As healthcare providers, we must find strategies that help patients become more adherent to their medications and care plans," said Alice Watson, MD, Center for Connected Health. "We are extremely encouraged by these interim results, showing a high rate of adherence in users of the GlowCap system."

In total, 139 patients diagnosed with hypertension and taking an anti-hypertensive medication were enrolled in a six month study starting in August 2009. Participants were required to have Internet access and an e-mail account to receive reports. Each participant was randomized into one of three groups: Those in the control group did not receive any communication or GlowCap services, while the intervention group received visual and audio reminders from the GlowCap as well as missed dose reminder phone calls, medication refill reminders and progress reports e-mailed to the patient, family member and/or primary care provider.

Participants in an intervention-plus group additionally received a financial incentive if they exceeded a monthly adherence goal of 80 percent.

Three month interim analysis shows study participants in the intervention and intervention-plus group achieved adherence rates of 98 percent and 99 percent, respectively. This was significantly higher than the control group, which had an adherence rate of 71 percent. The study is also measuring blood pressure control and subject satisfaction. Final analysis of the study is anticipated this fall.

"GlowCaps use real-time feedback loops to act on a number of behavioral motivators: reminders, doctor accountability, social support and help with refills," said David Rose, CEO of Vitality. "These are instructive findings for pharmaceutical manufacturers and payors who have a vested interest in improving patient outcomes with their products and services."

Each year millions of people fail to take medications as prescribed by their physicians. The World Health Organization estimates that adherence to daily medication averages 50 percent for those suffering from chronic diseases. Numerous studies demonstrate that poor-adherence reduces the effectiveness of medications, jeopardizes patient health, and increases health care costs. Recent research, including work by the New England Healthcare Institute, calculates the costs resulting from non-adherence at $300 billion annually.