Pilot study of a smartphone application designed to socially motivate cardiovascular disease patients to improve medication adherence

Saki Fujita, Isaree Pitaktong, Graeme Vosit Steller, Victor Dadfar, Qinwen Huang, Sindhu Banerjee, Richard Guo, Hien Tan Nguyen, Robert Harry Allen, Seth Shay Martin


Background: Social support received by patients from family and community has been identi ed as a key factor for success in improving medication adherence in those patients. This pilot study aimed to investigate the usability and feasibility of PillPal, a smartphone application that uses video-chatting as a social motivation medium to encourage medication adherence in cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients. We additionally gathered feedback on the Physician Calendar, an accompanying web platform that allows clinicians to view patient adherence data generated from the app.
Methods: Thirty patients were recruited from the Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) Lipid Clinic (n=14) and Inpatient Cardiology Service (n=16) to pilot test the app. Data were obtained through in-person interviews in which patients tested out the app and answered standardized questions regarding the app’s feasibility as a means to enhance social support, as well as its usability measured in terms of ease of use and patient comfort level with the video-chat technology. Cardiologists (n=10) from JHH were interviewed to gain feedback on the Physician Calendar.
Results: We recorded 43.4% participants who stated that PillPal would increase their motivation to take their medications; 96.7% stated the app was easy to use; and 70% stated they were comfortable with video- chatting while taking their medications. Patient factors such as current adherence level, disease severity, and personality were more predictive of positive app reviews than the perceived level of social support. Clinicians generally approved of the Physician Calendar, as they would be able to quickly screen for non-adherence and begin conversations with patients to address the root cause of their non-adherence.
Conclusions: Based on pilot testing and interviews, using a smartphone app for video-chatting as a social support medium to improve patient medication adherence is feasible and has potential to increase medication adherence depending on certain patient characteristics. The Physician Calendar was deemed a useful tool by clinicians to quickly identify and understand reasons for medication non-adherence.