Medication is a welcome addition to Apple’s product line


Apple’s medical tracking function for the iPhone and Apple Watch, revealed as part of watchOS 9 at WWDC 2022, isn’t a revolutionary innovation. There are a plethora of apps available to remind users to take their prescriptions on time.

About half of those prescribed medication for chronic diseases don’t take it as prescribed, which is a serious problem in healthcare. Non-compliance costs the healthcare system hundreds of billions of dollars every year because patients grow sicker when they don’t take their drugs appropriately. Experts’ wish lists for the ultimate drug app aren’t complete, but Apple’s entry into the fray could be a positive step for the industry.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” says Seth Heldenbrand, associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences.

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The program allows users to enter a list of prescriptions and set a reminder time for each one. A notification appears on the user’s iPhone or Apple Watch when they’ve taken a pharmaceutical dose. To record the dose, select “taken” or “skipped.” This software will also keep track of how frequently users take their prescription over time.

This feature in the Health app will allow users of Apple’s medicine app to share their medication history with family members or others. According to Heldenbrand, this could provide doctors with valuable information on how their patients are taking their medications. However, the contact would only be one-sided via the app, and de Vera believes that one-sided communication about pharmaceuticals has historically been less successful than a system where doctors may respond. A positive feedback loop between providers and nudges is most effective.

In the case of something as difficult as medication adherence, simply providing a reminder tool may not be enough to spur major change. “How long will they stick with it and how effective will it be in helping them take their prescription?” is a question that needs to be answered by both the patient and the provider. A hard needle is used for adhesion tests. “It’s what Heldenbrand has to say.”

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