Mobile app helps elderly manage medication better
19 June 2013
An application for mobile devices that helps elderly people with
multiple illnesses improve medication management has been developed
by researchers at the Universidad Miguel Hernández (UMH) in Elche.
The application, called ‘Alicia’ is installed in user’s tablet or
smartphone and offers more features than the regular pillbox. it was
developed with Elche-based company Nidoweb and other
Spanish partners. The app can
issue alerts with photographs showing the container and the drug
itself or reporting on the conservation and proper use of medicines.
The programme can even include tips on exercise and diet. The
inventors expect the app can reduce the frequency of medication
errors and improve the welfare and autonomy of patients.
The target audience is 65 year-olds and over who suffer from two
or more chronic diseases and need five or more drugs a day, "a
segment of the population that often makes mistakes in their
medication management," says José Joaquín Mira, specialist in
Such errors include mixing-up pills or not taking them regularly
and are committed for different reasons, such as forgetfulness, lack
of information or inadequate information. "In most cases, the
so-called ‘adverse events’ do not have serious consequences for the
patient’s health, but about 6% require hospitalization", he adds.
"The most relevant result of the pilot study we have conducted is
that, according to users, the number of mistakes was halved," says
the researcher José Joaquín Mira Solves.
Quantitative and qualitative study
Besides the design of the virtual assistant, partners have
identified the most common errors in self-management of medication
and safe practices used by patients over 65. "First, we conducted
more than 300 interviews and surveys to see the strategies put in
place to follow the doctor's instructions. A high percentage
resorted to use a pillbox but this resource has some problems
because the appearance of the tablets can change and this confuses
the patient," says the researcher.
Another important result of the study was to determine the extent
to which users knew their medication. According to José Joaquín
Mira, "patients generally knew what the drugs were for but lacked
information on proper storage in order to maintain the properties or
on the precautions they should take, such as incompatibility with
certain foods or other drugs." These results provided clues to the
researchers about the type of information that should be
incorporated into ‘Alicia’ depending on the patient's profile.
The evaluation of the 51 volunteers who participated in the pilot
study indicated that they found the tool useful, easy to use and
errors were reduced when taking their pills. This virtual pillbox
could also help to avoid drug interactions that can occur when
specialists from outside the public health system recommend drugs
without seeing the patient’s digital history. Thus, the patient
would be able to show the private specialist the list of medications
and treatments prescribed on his or her tablet or smartphone.