Staying on Track: Innovative App Promises to Ensure Medication Adherence


Nathalie Vera
Staff Writer

Over and over again, people are advised to track daily aspects of their lives such as their monetary expenses or caloric intake in order to achieve financial literacy or a balanced diet. Unfortunately, many people inevitably find this tedious or inconvenient at one point or another, and New Year’s resolutions become unattainable illusions. The result? Skinny wallets and not-so-skinny waists.

But while financial incompetence and unhealthy diets are certainly severe problems in America, medication noncompliance may have even more tragic results.

According to the National Stroke Association, medication noncompliance—that is, failing to take medication on schedule or failing to take it as prescribed—is a rapidly growing problem in the United States. This alarming issue has been reported to commonly end in disease and illness progression, extra costs as a result of complications and hospital stays, and unneeded medication changes.

“In the United States, 12 percent of people don’t take their medication at all after they fill/buy the prescription,” the National Stroke Association says.

As possible solutions for adhering to medication, the organization suggests using cell phones to set reminders, pillboxes with the days of the week, reaching out to family and friends as reminders as well, and writing down the recommended medicine dosage as a way of staying on track.  However, the problem with trying to keep such disciplined regimen is that, as aforementioned, good habits are hard to maintain.

“It’s hard for me to keep up with my birth control pill,” a fourth-year at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who asked to remain anonymous, says. “I have a very busy life and so I forget.”

As a result, the student shares that she has practically given up on the pill, forced to consider alternate contraceptive methods that have not been too convincing thus far.

Sure enough, it is no secret that UCSB students lead busy lives, and like this fellow Gaucho, several other women at the university may be encountering the exact same problem, as well as anyone who takes vitamins or other medicine on a regular basis. However, according to an innovative app for smart phones, a real solution for this medication noncompliance problem may have finally arrived.

MediSafe, a user-friendly, free application on the iTunes Store and on Google Play, is “the first-ever cloud-synced mobile app that not only reminds users when it’s time to take their medication, but also sends their family, friends and caretakers alerts if they miss a dose,” its description reads.

This is how it works: after downloading the application to their mobile device, a user would configure their phone number into the settings for text message notifications. They would then set a time, special instructions (such as, “Eat After a Meal”, “Every 4 hours,” or “Do Not Take More Than 3 a Day”), and have the option to sync other people as another reminding tool. To do this, they would simply input the other persons’ phone number, who would then also get a text message urging them to remind the user to take their medication.

For women on the birth control pill, this would provide an opportunity to sync their close friends or boyfriends for an effective reminder.

The UCSB fourth-year finds this feature very helpful.

“That sounds better [than other similar applications that do not have this option],” she said. “I would sync someone I really trust.”

However, she admits that she has already set alarm reminders on her phone in the past, explaining that those have usually failed because of having her phone on silent, being in the middle of a work shift and unavailable to take her pill, or simply being in the presence of family who are unaware of her active sex life. Therefore, MediSafe might prove as ineffective in her, and other people’s cases, seeing as how its reminding tools are essentially the same techniques. For those required to be on multiple medicines, however, the app might better work in their favor.

Nonetheless, without the need to perpetually remember to take their medicine, UCSB students may now have more room for remembering to do their homework. Perhaps.