Text Message Medication Adherence Reminders Automated and Delivered at Scale Across Two Institutions: Testing the Nudge System: Pilot Study

Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2021 May;14(5):e007015. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.120.007015. Epub 2021 May 17.


Background: Medication refill behavior in patients with cardiovascular diseases is suboptimal. Brief behavioral interventions called Nudges may impact medication refill behavior and can be delivered at scale to patients using text messaging.

Methods: Patients who were prescribed and filled at least one medication for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and coronary artery disease were identified for the pilot study. Patients eligible for the pilot (N=400) were enrolled with an opportunity to opt out. In phase I of the pilot, we tested text message delivery to 60 patients. In phase II, we tested intervention feasibility by identifying those with refill gap of ≥7 days and randomized them to intervention or control arms. Patients were texted Nudges and assessed whether they refilled their medications.

Results: Of 400 patients sent study invitations, 56 (14%) opted out. In phase I, we successfully delivered text messages to 58 of 60 patients and captured patient responses via text. In phase II, 207 of 286 (72.4%) patients had a medication gap ≥7 days for one or more cardiovascular medications and were randomized to intervention or control. Enrolled patients averaged 61.7 years old, were primarily male (69.1%) and White (72.5%) with hypertension being the most prevalent qualifying condition (78.7%). There was a trend towards intervention patients being more likely to refill at least 1 gapping medication (30.6% versus 18.0%; P=0.12) and all gapping medications (17.8% versus 10.0%; P=0.27).

Conclusions: It is possible to set up automated processes within health care delivery systems to identify patients with gaps in medication adherence and send Nudges to facilitate medication refills. Text message Nudges could potentially be a feasible and effective method to facilitate medication refills. A large multi-site randomized trial to determine the impact of text-based Nudges on overall CVD morbidity and mortality is now underway to explore this further. Registration: URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov; Unique identifier: NCT03973931.

Keywords: cardiovascular diseases; coronary artery disease; hyperlipidemia; medication adherence; text messaging.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / diagnosis
  • Hypertension* / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Text Messaging*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03973931