Background: Despite the criticality of adherence to tuberculosis treatment, there is paucity of rigorous experimental research exploring the efficacy of interventions to promote adherence and a greater lack of inquiry addressing the integral role of adherence behaviour. The aim of this formative study was to examine the way in which the Wisepill evriMED Medication Event Reminder Monitor (MERM) was used among outpatients with drug susceptible pulmonary tuberculosis.
Methods: In depth interviews were conducted with 20 outpatients receiving treatment from two public healthcare facilities in Thanh Hoa, a rural province in northern Viet Nam. Patients had been enrolled in a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effect of using the MERM device upon adherence for between 1-3 months. The control group used the device without an alert, while the intervention group used the device with a daily alert and scheduled dosing history review.
Findings: All 20 patients interviewed were supportive of using the MERM device. Those able to be at home at the time that their treatment was due (50%) used the device as intended. Patients who worked all reported separating the time when the box was opened from the time at which they ingested their medication. Patients expressed fidelity to the prescribed medication taking time and concerns regarding the portability of the device. Limitations of the study surround the inclusion of a small sample population that did not experience factors that further compromise adherence.
Conclusions: Data recorded by the box did not always accurately reflect usage patterns. The alert in the intervention arm was able to support adherence only in patients who did not work while completing their treatment. MERM implementation can be improved by better aligning prescriber instructions with patients' daily routines, and increasing the use of adherence data to guide adherence support practices. Healthcare staff need to be aware of potential barriers to optimal use of MERM devices. A rigorous qualitative approach to formative assessment is essential to inform the scale up of new digital technologies.