Selfie Medicine

Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

By Noa L., Vaica

Olivia R Van Wyck, Contributor

On March 29, 2018, Times Now published an article about how selfie mobile phone applications could help improve medication adherence. The article described a simple, innovative way to improve medication adherence. The patients could download one of these new apps on their smartphone, take a video of themselves taking a medication and then upload the video to the app. Once the video is uploaded, their healthcare providers can review the video. In addition to increasing patient compliance, selfie med applications are also intended to make it easier for healthcare providers to monitor the adherence of their patients so they can intervene when there is potential danger from not following medication instructions properly.

At face value, this seems like a practical and easily adoptable idea. After all, people take selfies every day. But is it that simple? Digging deeper, the research suggests that there are four fundamental problems with this route:

  • Possible breaches of patient privacy could occur. Smartphone apps are an additional area where patient’s healthcare information is vulnerable if not properly protected with cyber security.
  • If patients forget to take their meds, they most certainly will forget to take a video and upload it.
  • If patients choose not to take their meds, there is nothing to record and upload.
  • Technology challenges- A study in 2012 showed that approximately 77% of elderly adults do not feel comfortable using technology without help. It stands to reason: the more steps there are, the more confusing the process.
  • In addition to these problems mentioned above- not everyone has a smartphone.

I personally don’t think that Selfies are the answer to the problem of medication non-adherence. Patient medication adherence technologies should make it as easy as possible for patients to remember to take their meds as prescribed in a way that maintains privacy, and concurrently, instantly keeps their care circle in the loop without extra steps for the patient or the healthcare team. If selfies are not how technology can improve medication adherence, then what is?

To name a few possible technologies that are available out there are pharmacy concierge services that help increase medication adherence by giving patient’s one-on-one time with a pharmacist, Medicare/Medicaid that are trying to help patients who either cannot manage a smartphone or cannot afford one, and of course- smart pill boxes that make it easier for patients to remember taking their meds while simplifying compliance monitoring for caregivers and family. Each of these solutions have potential to help remedy the issue of medication adherence.  Who’s truly up for the challenge? Only time will tell.