Medical apps & medication adherence: two key reports from the UK Academy of Medical Sciences

This editor was involved in the development of two events at the Academy of Medical Sciences that took place at the end of 2014, the reports of which have just been publicised.

The first, on medical apps, brought together a wide range of stakeholders to:

  • Explore the current and proposed regulatory frameworks for health apps;
  • Hear case studies of the development of health apps and of the regulation and oversight of software development in other medical, nuclear and automotive sectors;
  • Discuss the current and future challenges faced in the oversight of health apps and devise solutions to these issues.

Particular issues raised during the day included:

  • The complexity of current regulation and the suitability of the current legal framework;
  • The need for vigilance and monitoring;
  • Obstacles to, and promotion of, app use;
  • Generation and evaluation of evidence for clinical efficacy;
  • The potential role of aggregation services;
  • Software development practices.

In addition to the report itself, the presentations can also be downloaded here.

The second meeting, on medication adherence, was larger. It included key stakeholders from academia, the pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare sector, along with ethicists, economists and patient representatives. Objectives were to:

  • Explore stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities in improving adherence to medicines;
  • Facilitate interactions between the relevant stakeholders;
  • Work towards identifying solutions to this issue.

The meeting highlighted several key considerations for enhancing adherence to medicines, including:

  • Prioritising the challenge of non-adherence to medicines to ensure better outcomes for patients;
  • Coordinating a sector-wide response to tackle poor adherence;
  • Carefully allocating effort and resources in addressing non-adherence;
  • Better engaging and communicating with patients, and developing a deeper understanding of their experiences, expectations and root causes for non-adherence;
  • Incorporating messages on medicines adherence and better communication into medical training;
  • Developing and implementing tools to accurately monitor adherence, in order to better estimate the prevalence and nature of the problem;
  • Utilising new technologies to improve adherence to medicines as a complement to the work of healthcare providers.

The report is accessible here; there is more background here.

The key takeaway for this editor from the meeting was how common across the world is the experience that patients on average only take 50% of medicines as prescribed – it is no wonder that cure rates rarely impress. Just imagine the outcry if GPs only turned up to 50% of appointments, yet the effect would be arguably similar!

Credit in particular is due to Dr Claire Cope who produced both excellent reports.

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