Background: Nonadherence and medication errors are common among patients with complex drug regimens. Apps for smartphones and tablets are effective for improving adherence, but they have not been tested in elderly patients with complex chronic conditions and who typically have less experience with this type of technology.
Objective: The objective of this study was to design, implement, and evaluate a medication self-management app (called ALICE) for elderly patients taking multiple medications with the intention of improving adherence and safe medication use.
Methods: A single-blind randomized controlled trial was conducted with a control and an experimental group (N=99) in Spain in 2013. The characteristics of ALICE were specified based on the suggestions of 3 nominal groups with a total of 23 patients and a focus group with 7 professionals. ALICE was designed for Android and iOS to allow for the personalization of prescriptions and medical advice, showing images of each of the medications (the packaging and the medication itself) together with alerts and multiple reminders for each alert. The randomly assigned patients in the control group received oral and written information on the safe use of their medications and the patients in the experimental group used ALICE for 3 months. Pre and post measures included rate of missed doses and medication errors reported by patients, scores from the 4-item Morisky Medication Adherence Scale (MMAS-4), level of independence, self-perceived health status, and biochemical test results. In the experimental group, data were collected on their previous experience with information and communication technologies, their rating of ALICE, and their perception of the level of independence they had achieved. The intergroup intervention effects were calculated by univariate linear models and ANOVA, with the pre to post intervention differences as the dependent variables.
Results: Data were obtained from 99 patients (48 and 51 in the control and experimental groups, respectively). Patients in the experimental group obtained better MMAS-4 scores (P<.001) and reported fewer missed doses of medication (P=.02). ALICE only helped to significantly reduce medication errors in patients with an initially higher rate of errors (P<.001). Patients with no experience with information and communication technologies reported better adherence (P<.001), fewer missed doses (P<.001), and fewer medication errors (P=.02). The mean satisfaction score for ALICE was 8.5 out of 10. In all, 45 of 51 patients (88%) felt that ALICE improved their independence in managing their medications.
Conclusions: The ALICE app improves adherence, helps reduce rates of forgetting and of medication errors, and increases perceived independence in managing medication. Elderly patients with no previous experience with information and communication technologies are capable of effectively using an app designed to help them take their medicine more safely.
Trial Registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT02071498; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02071498 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6OJjdHVhD).