Health and technology has worked hand in hand for many years with this relationship intertwining further with the development of a smartphone app created here in New Zealand. The app is designed to reduce the rate of non-adherence to medicine, with a particular emphasis on diabetes.
It is estimated that the number of Kiwi’s diagnosed with diabetes exceeds 200,000 with a further 100,000 living with diabetes undiagnosed (according to data from the Ministry of Health).
With a large percentage of Kiwi’s with diabetes in the Counties Manukau region, the first of the new trials is set to use an app which will assist in monitoring the level of adherence to diabetes levels among patients in South Auckland who have a specific hemoglobin marker called HbA1c. This marker can indicate a greater risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
Researchers have been using the app to help ensure patients within trials take their medicine which in turn provides more accurate research results. This is particularly important among some New Zealanders who have barriers to access to medicine.
Pharmacist Din Redzepagic from Zoom Pharmacy whose company designed the app, says there are a number of reasons diabetics may not have easy access to prescription medication.
“Diabetes is notorious for poor medicine adherence. The disease is asymptomatic which means those living with the disease don’t feel the high levels of blood sugar. As a result they don’t feel they need to take the medication and even when they do, they feel exactly the same whether they take it or not,” he says.
Many patients from Manukau Superclinic are shift workers or have limited transport options which can further impact their ability to fill prescriptions. Outpatients with diabetes will have their prescriptions delivered by courier which will assist in overcoming common barriers in accessing a pharmacy and medication.
“By delivering the medicine to their door, scheduling calls with a multi-lingual team of pharmacists and introducing an app in their health care routine that can monitor how frequently they are taking their medication, we hope to remove some of the key barriers which prevent them taking their medication as prescribed by their doctor.” Says Redzepagic
Reporting from the app will assist in identifying patients who are not keeping up with their medication as prescribed by their doctor and therefore allowing them to be followed up by an health care professional.
Redzepagic says data from the study will be analysed later this year by the DHB and has the potential to be expanded into other regions if found to be successful.
Lead pharmacist for Zoom Pharmacy Dale Griffiths, is managing a second trial where he will manage randomised distribution of different diabetes medications to patients. Griffiths says the research is important as getting the right medication is an important factor in being able to control the disease.
“What we know is that there are a number of variables which influence how you respond to certain medications.”
“If we can get a better understanding of which medication may work better for your ethnicity or body type, it may mean you can better manage your symptoms and also avoid side effects from taking an alternative medicine.”
“One of the limitations of real world trials is ensuring patients strictly follow the dosage laid out by the researchers. Without this adherence, the integrity of the study can be compromised.” Says Griffiths.
“By introducing the Zoom adherence service, digital monitoring and intervention by phone, we anticipate that patients in the study will stick more closely to the medication schedule provided to them – providing a more accurate outcome for researchers,” he says.
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