According to Statista, medication apps are among the 10 most popular mHealth apps categories used by US adults. About 21% of the survey respondents say they have used some type of a medication tracker or reminder at least once.
For a healthcare provider, developing a medication app means gaining greater control over patients’ medication management and, therefore, offering better, safer care. In this article, we list six features that can all be a part of one multifunctional medication app and explain why involving this kind of a patient app in treatment can be effective.
Digital scheduling of medication intake should be the core feature of a quality medication app. Other features become a lot more helpful and convenient to use when they can access the data from the schedule.
For the sake of security, the initial medication plan should be created by a health professional. Then, it can be shared to a patient’s mobile device while remaining free to edit for a doctor. This way, healthcare professionals and patients will always be on the same page. If after an in-person or an e-visit a patient needs a medication dose adjustment, they can contact their doctor and have their medication plan reviewed and updated.
Unlike a patient who takes one or two types of pills, a patient with a more intensive medication plan can have difficulties remembering what pill they should take at what time. Such patients will benefit from reminders with notifications that display the name of medication and its dosage. A photo of what a necessary pill looks like can be displayed, too. This way, even a person with a neurodegenerative disease won’t make a mistake.
Notifications can remind the user not only about medication intake but also about the need to restock the meds. For this feature to work, a patient needs to regularly take note of the dosage and the number of pills they have bought and input this data into their mobile medication plan. Then the automatic algorithm will calculate the date by when the stock will be exhausted and will warn a patient about it in advance.
Drug interaction checker
Another feature that can help patients with medicine intake is a drug interaction checker. Being a part of a multifunctional medication app, the interaction checking algorithm can always run in the background. After a healthcare professional or a patient adds a new drug to the existing list in the medication schedule, the interaction checker automatically runs a test and shows a warning message in case the new entry is incompatible with the medication that is already in the plan. Moreover, patients can configure their individual conditions, such as allergies or pregnancy, and have the app check condition-drug interaction of every medication entry that is added to their plan.
Making prescription renewal available via a mobile app means saving the time of both patients and healthcare professionals. After receiving an automatic reminder about their prescription expiring, a patient will be prompted to fill in the form for medication renewal. A doctor will receive the form digitally, contact the patient only in case of some questions regarding their condition, and send them a new prescription via the app as well. A patient can print the prescription out or show it to the drug store attendant right on the screen of their phone.
Medication price / location search
Standalone medication apps that allow searching for the closest or cheapest drug store with the necessary medication in stock are already popular among patients. Yet, when combined with the medication plan feature, the search becomes a lot more convenient.
Patients don’t need to remember and input the names of their meds into a search box. All they need to do is to select an entry in their schedule, sort parameters like cost and distance by priority, and trigger a GPS-based search. If the app is partnered with certain drug stores, the result page will display the discounts a patient is eligible for. A map with navigation is optional but can be useful, too, especially for users who prioritize lower price and are okay with traveling over large distances to little-known locations.
It’s not an uncommon thing to find a vial of pills without a label, a blister with a faded description, or a single loose pill in one’s medicine box – and have a vague idea what those pills are. A pill identifying feature can help in this situation and will tell a patient what pills they have.
The two possible ways of implementing this functionality differ in the development costs and convenience of use. The cheaper but less convenient option is to let a patient manually input pill characteristics, such as type, size, shape, color, and intagliation (if available). The app then runs a search through its digital database and shows a list of medications with similar characteristics. Sadly, if there’re multiple variants, the only thing a patient can do is to look for the name of the pills they could have had in their medicine box.
The other option is a more user-friendly but also more expensive to implement. Relying on complex image analysis algorithms, the app will ask to upload a picture of a pill and then will search for a similar image in its visual database. Here, in case of getting some variants, a patient will be able both to look at the medication name and compare images of a suggested pill with the pills they have – hence the higher chances of accurate identification.
Medication apps can be a multifunctional tool with various features that help patients manage their medication intake. With a medication plan at its core, such an app can have other supporting features like reminders, drug interaction check and pill identifying algorithms, as well as drug store search and remote prescription renewal.