The NUDGE trial pragmatic trial to enhance cardiovascular medication adherence: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2021 Aug 11;22(1):528. doi: 10.1186/s13063-021-05453-9.


Background: Nearly half of patients do not take their cardiovascular medications as prescribed, resulting in increased morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs. Mobile and digital technologies for health promotion and disease self-management offer an opportunity to adapt behavioral "nudges" using ubiquitous mobile phone technology to facilitate medication adherence. The Nudge pragmatic clinical trial uses population-level pharmacy data to deliver nudges via mobile phone text messaging and an artificial intelligent interactive chat bot with the goal of improving medication adherence and patient outcomes in three integrated healthcare delivery systems.

Methods: The Theory of mHealth, the Expanded RE-AIM/PRISM, and the PRECIS-2 frameworks were used for program planning, implementation, and evaluation, along with a focus on dissemination and cost considerations. During the planning phase, the Nudge study team developed and piloted a technology-based nudge message and chat bot of optimized interactive content libraries for a range of diverse patients. Inclusion criteria are very broad and include patients in one of three diverse health systems who take medications to treat hypertension, atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia. A target of approximately 10,000 participants will be randomized to one of 4 study arms: usual care (no intervention), generic nudge (text reminder), optimized nudge, and optimized nudge plus interactive AI chat bot. The PRECIS-2 tool indicated that the study protocol is very pragmatic, although there is variability across PRECIS-2 dimensions.

Discussion: The primary effectiveness outcome is medication adherence defined by the proportion of days covered (PDC) using pharmacy refill data. Implementation outcomes are assessed using the RE-AIM framework, with a particular focus on reach, consistency of implementation, adaptations, cost, and maintenance/sustainability. The project has limitations including limited power to detect some subgroup effects, medication complications (bleeding), and longer-term outcomes (myocardial infarction). Strengths of the study include the diverse healthcare systems, a feasible and generalizable intervention, transparent reporting using established pragmatic research and implementation science frameworks, strong stakeholder engagement, and planning for dissemination and sustainment.

Trial registration: NCT03973931 . Registered on 4 June 2019. The study was funded by the NIH; grant number is 4UH3HL144163-02 issued 4/5/19.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; Dissemination; Implementation; Medication adherence; PRECIS-2; Pragmatic trial; RE-AIM; mHealth.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Agents* / adverse effects
  • Cell Phone*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / drug therapy
  • Medication Adherence
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Text Messaging*


  • Cardiovascular Agents

Associated data