Tip of the Week: Using Health Apps to Improve Medication Adherence


There is increasingly available technology to help patients manage their disease states, stay healthy, change lifestyles, and adhere to their medication.

Pharmacists manage technology that assists with medication preparation, distribution, and dispensing as well as for clinical decision support. There is increasingly available technology to help patients manage their disease states, stay healthy, change lifestyles, and adhere to their medication.

Previously, adherence reminders were accomplished through pharmacy-sponsored automated, telephone calls. Then came text messaging, tailored text messaging, and apps on smart phone devices.

An article in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy recently described development of a tool to discern the quality of medication adherence apps. The Medication Adherence App Quality (MedAd-AppQ) assessment tool was used by 2 evaluators who independently assessed apps that fulfilled the following criteria: availability in English, have a medication reminder feature, nonspecific to certain disease conditions, free of technical malfunctions, and availability on both the iPhone Operating System (iOS) and Android platforms.

The MedAd-AppQ has 24 items to be scored, up to 43 total points, categorized under 3 sections: content reliability (11 points), features usefulness (29 points), and features convenience (3 points). The researchers’ testing of the MedAd-AppQ instrument itself demonstrated it to have inter-rater correlation for which different raters would come up with a similar score for an app being evaluated.

Based on their analysis, of 52 apps (27 iOS and 25 Android), quality scores ranged between 7/43 (16.3%) to 28/43 (65.1%). There was no significant difference between the quality scores of the Android and iOS versions.

None of the apps had features for self-management of adverse effects. Only 2 apps in each platform provided disease-related or medication information. The researchers concluded that clinicians can use the MedAd-AppQ in helping patients assess and select apps; however, many of the apps tested were lacking features that could help patients. Those apps need to be more user-friendly and house information beyond adherence reminders and rudimentary dosing.

Pharmacists can help patients and engender their loyalty by embracing modern technology, and helping them manage their disease state using apps that they would want to use. Pharmacy managers can consider signage or other advertising that avail customers of such services as assistance with health-related mobile technologies.

Pharmacists should be aware that some of these apps might be helpful, but are far from the panacea that some might imagine them to be.

Additional information about medication therapy management and management functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. You or your institution can subscribe to AccessPharmacy to access the textbook.

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is Professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California. He is author of Chapter 1: The “Management” in Medication Therapy Management and Management Functions in the textbook Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.


Ali EE, Sin-Tao AK, Lin-Goh SX, et al. MedAd-AppQ: A quality assessment tool for medication adherence apps on iOS and Android platforms. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2018;14:1125-1133.

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