Lawrence Gordon, MD, an otolaryngologist in private practice and founder of Waiting Room Solutions, an EHR system that includes reminder functions, said many doctors underestimate the potential of electronic reminders. “Often, doctors will judge their patients’ abilities incorrectly; they’ll say, ‘My patient population would never do this,’” he said. “But some of our preconceived notions of age and socioeconomic status don’t always hold true. Some older people are very tech savvy.”
Explore this issue:November 2010
According to Richard Adler of the Institute for the Future/People & Technology, almost every household has access to an Internet-connected computer. Over 250 million Americans have cell phones. Forty-one million Americans, including many over age 40, send and receive text messages almost every day, and many of them are open to receiving treatment reminders via e-mail and text, he said.
“Patients who receive electronic reminders feel that you’re in control of the process,” Dr. Gordon said. “It really instills confidence when they see you communicating with them electronically.”
A variety of Web-based reminder systems, including MyMedSchedule (mymedschedule.com), RememberItNow (rememberitnow.com) and Intelecare (intelecare.com), enable patients or their care providers to log on, enter their medications or treatments and schedule personalized reminders.
Greg Duggins, a 55-year-old patient from New York, uses MyMedSchedule to manage his medications. “I set it to send me a text. When I hear it, I know I got to get up and do something. The program doesn’t let me forget,” Duggins said. Duggins also shares system-generated medication reports with his physicians at each appointment.
—Jan Berger, MD
“Smart” Medication Dispensers
Technology-enhanced medication dispensers also remind patients to take their pills and create compliance reports that can be shared with health care providers. Maya from MedMinder (medminder.com) is a seven-day pillbox that can be programmed to flash, then sound an alarm, when it’s time for the patient to take his medicine. If the medication is not taken within a specified timeframe, an alert can be sent directly to a care provider. Weekly compliance reports are also available.
The Vitality GlowCap (vitality.net) is a high-tech pill bottle cover that screws onto a regular medication vial and glows, beeps or calls the patient when it’s time to take medication. Like the Maya, the GlowCap also sends weekly and monthly compliance reports. According to an internal study, GlowCap users take their medications on time over 95 percent of the time, compared to 70 percent for users of traditional pill bottles http://www.vitality.net/docs/pharma_presentation.pdf).
Integrated Electronic Health Records
While most medical practices will be using electronic health records (EHRs) in a few years, some physicians are using EHRs right now to enhance patient communication.