Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Did U 4Get? Medication Reminders
Ah, texting- the new language of our youth! As we embrace technology, I believe there will be many beneficial uses of the tiny screens upon which our culture is becoming increasingly dependent. There are multiple "apps" out there, for example, that help people track behavioral changes such as exercise, or count days without junk food (or soda, or alcohol, or cigarettes or candy bars!) In my practice, I have seen these simple electronic tools really help my patients improve their health.
Along those lines, there is an interesting study recently published in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, entitled Using daily text-message reminders to improve adherence with oral contraceptives: a randomized controlled trial. This was a small, short study with just less than one hundred young, high school female graduates followed over three months. The women were randomized to receive a daily text message reminding them to take their birth control pill, and their compliance was both self-recorded and externally monitored.
The results surprised me, frankly. I would have thought simply participating in such a study, none-the-less receiving a DAILY reminder would have yielded near perfect compliance. Unfortunately, what was seen was that BOTH groups missed a significant number of pills each month (4.9+/-3.0 for the text-message group and 4.6+/-3.5 for the control group.) It's possible the difference in the groups was small because women in both groups used additional reminders such as alarms on their cell phones.
The other disappointment is that the girls' self-reporting of missed pills was markedly below their true number of missed pills, which strongly suggests that they could be underestimating their true risk of becoming pregnant if they are sexually active.
BOTTOM LINE: While technology may be able to help us towards healthy lifestyles, daily text medication reminders may not be an effective tool (at least in this setting.) Physicians need to emphasize (and patients need to implement!) strict compliance with oral contraceptive pills.