The effect of reminder systems on patients' adherence to treatment

Patient Prefer Adherence. 2012;6:127-35. doi: 10.2147/PPA.S26314. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Background: Patient adherence is an important component of the treatment of chronic disease. An understanding of patient adherence and its modulating factors is necessary to correctly interpret treatment efficacy and barriers to therapeutic success.

Purpose: This meta-analysis aims to systematically review published randomized controlled trials of reminder interventions to assist patient adherence to prescribed medications.

Methods: A Medline search was performed for randomized controlled trials published between 1968 and June 2011, which studied the effect of reminder-based interventions on adherence to self-administered daily medications.

Results: Eleven published randomized controlled trials were found between 1999 and 2009 which measured adherence to a daily medication in a group receiving reminder interventions compared to controls receiving no reminders. Medication adherence was measured as the number of doses taken compared to the number prescribed within a set period of time. Meta- analysis showed a statistically significant increase in adherence in groups receiving a reminder intervention compared to controls (66.61% versus 54.71%, 95% CI for mean: 0.8% to 22.4%). Self-reported and electronically monitored adherence rates did not significantly differ (68.04% versus 63.67%, P = 1.0). Eight of eleven studies showed a statistically significant increase in adherence for at least one of the reminder group arms compared to the control groups receiving no reminder intervention.

Limitations: The data are limited by imperfect measures of adherence due to variability in data collection methods. It is also likely that concomitant educational efforts in the study populations, such as instructions regarding proper administration and importance of correct dosing schedules, contributed to improved patient adherence, both in reminder and control arms. The search strategy could have missed relevant studies which were categorized by disease rather than adherence.

Conclusions: Reminder-based interventions may improve adherence to daily medications. However, the interventions used in these studies, which included reminder phone calls, text messages, pagers, interactive voice response systems, videotelephone calls, and programmed electronic audiovisual reminder devices, are impractical for widespread implementation, and their efficacy may be optimized when combined with alternative adherence-modifying strategies. More practical reminder-based interventions should be assessed to determine their value in improving patient adherence and treatment outcomes.

Keywords: medication reminders; patient adherence; treatment compliance.