Coronary heart disease patients using a smartphone app for medication reminders have demonstrated greater adherence to prescriptions in a new Australian study, but researchers found a basic reminder app can be just as effective as the advanced variety in what was described as “exciting” news for patients.

Presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Germany, the research published in Heart studied a sample of 163 adult participants with a mean age of mean age was 57.9 years to gauge the effectiveness of drug reminder apps.

“Currently, there are numerous smartphone applications that claim to improve adherence through programmed regular reminders but very limited evidence that such apps are effective,” the researchers wrote in Heart.

“Therefore, we aimed to evaluate, in a randomised clinical trial (RCT), the effectiveness and feasibility of using publicly available high-quality medication reminder apps to improve medication adherence compared with usual care in patients with [coronary heart disease] and to determine whether an app with additional features improved adherence further.”

Participants in the study were randomly assigned to receive either standard care, or instructions and assistance to download one of two freely available medication reminder apps.

The first of these included simply daily reminder alerts that were non-interactive and occurred only once with each notification.

The second was a more interactive service that included customised reminders and scheduling as well as other features such as refill reminders, adherence statistics, data exportation and missed dose alerts sent to family members or other peer support.

After the three-month study period, participants using the apps had much higher adherence levels.

When comparing scores between the two app groups, however, the difference in adherences scores was not significant. The researchers also saw no consequential differences in patients’ clinical outcomes.

"It's exciting that a basic app – some of which can be accessed for free – could help improve people's medication use and prevent further cardiovascular complications,” lead author Dr Karla Santo, of the University of Sydney, said in a statement.

“Participants in our trial were followed up after three months but longer term and larger studies are more likely to be able to show benefits or challenges of app usage, as well as the impact on additional measures such as blood pressure and cholesterol.”

Originally published on Mobihealthnews, a sister publication of HITNA.

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