Medication adherence doubles when patients use digital health apps

Woman with chronic respiratory disease uses digital health app

The most successful digital health platforms deliver improved outcomes by creating lasting, sustainable behavior changes in patients. These platforms often integrate smartphone apps into their solutions, empowering patients to be more proactive in maintaining their health and helping drive patient engagement — both essential for the self-management of chronic diseases such as asthma and COPD. But to what extent are digital health apps effective in influencing patient behavior, particularly around medication adherence? 

In a study recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, Propeller Health found that controller medication adherence among patients with chronic respiratory disease was more likely to increase (up to twofold) with digital health app engagement. Data was collected from a study group that included 1,629 participants with asthma and 663 participants with COPD who were using the Propeller platform. App engagement was measured by how often the Propeller app was opened and the amount of time participants spent in the app, perhaps interacting with features such as educational content or personalized insights. 

For participants with asthma, the odds of adhering to controller medication doubled when a participant opened the app or spent more than 10 minutes engaging with its features. COPD participants, on the other hand, had a 60% greater odds of using their controller medication when opening the app. However, they were more likely to adhere to their controller medication even if their time spent in the app was brief (less than a minute), possibly indicating their reliance on other features of the Propeller platform, such as app-based medication reminders.

These findings are important, especially when considering how inhaled controller medication adherence tends to be suboptimal among patients with chronic respiratory disease.1,2 As healthcare providers continue to work toward improving patient outcomes, they should also consider the value of patient engagement and behavior change. The insights from this study can be used to better understand patient behavior and determine which behavioral factors might support increased controller inhaler use. 

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This work was funded by ResMed, Propeller Health and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, through their CDC cooperative agreement number, 5U38OT000143-05. The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

1 Engelkes et al. (2015)
2 Bourbeau, J. & Bartlett, S. J. (2008)