Mobile Phone App Helps Patients Take Medication More Consistently: Study

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2011-02-11 Print this article Print

title=Study to Aid Revision of Vocel Pill Phone App}  

Representing the test sample of Pill Phone app users onstage at GWU was Dolores Smith. In fact, Dean Brenner, Qualcomm vice president of government affairs, called the group the study aims to help the "Dolores Factor." 

"It was really easy to use because I'm not good with the cell phone," Smith said. "I usually have to turn to the kids." Smith noted that she received 34 minutes of instruction on the phone prior to using the Pill Phone app. 

About 65 million Americans (one in three) suffer from hypertension due to poor adherence to blood pressure medication. 

"We're looking at the truly sick, not a group of people that are partially sick or the yoga people that are incredibly healthy," Robert Jarrin, Qualcomm's senior director of government affairs, told eWEEK. 

"You've got a chronic disease that is huge and pervasive, and you've got a technology that is huge and pervasive as well," Jarrin said. "So the pill phone is a wonderful example of that tool-it can be used in a widespread way." 

Also attending the GWU event were officials from the Federal Communications Commission and NIH (National Institutes of Health). 

"We need to be able to intervene with things that are ubiquitous, and mobile technologies are ubiquitous," said Dr. Wendy J. Nilsen, health science administrator for the NIH. "With mobile devices we can collect information and know why they're not adhering. It's the perfect place where doctors can intervene." 

Nilsen called the project "well-designed" and the "perfect thing we want to see in pilot," during an onstage critique of the study results.  

"These efforts show us that m-health is important to the nation, and we see our federal resources aligning to support it," added Kerry McDermott, health care director for the FCC, who oversees the agency's push for wireless health, particularly in rural areas. 

Mobile health technologies in progress 

Dr. Samir Patel, associate professor for the GWU Medical Center, noted that mobile technologies such as the Pill Phone have "potential to increase medication adherence, but improved methods to test medication adherence will be necessary." 

At GWU, Vocel's Washburn shared with eWEEK plans for version 2.0 of the Pill Phone app, which will be available later this year. 

When doctors want to share patients' pill adherence with other medical professionals, doctors will be able to send a Facebook-like invitation to patients requesting the ability to share data under HIPAA guidelines. 

Based on the study's results, the next version of Pill Phone will have simultaneous reminders for multiple pills, rather than separate reminders minute after minute, Washburn said. 

Version 2.0 will also incorporate the ability to link to patients' EHRs (electronic health records), a capability in demand in the medical community, as GWU's Katz noted. 

Wireless access, digital literacy and mobile app content will be required for mobile health technology to succeed, according to One Economy's Ritchie. "All three of these need to come together to make a dent in the national problem," Ritchie said. 

Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company,, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents,, USA Weekend and, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.

Follow him on Twitter: @bthorowitz


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