Myth Buster: How the 65+ Population Manages Their Medications Digitally

By Sanjiv Luthra, Medisafe Medication Management Platform

Taking medications as prescribed is a problem for many of us. And according to conventional wisdom, this problem is exacerbated for the aging population.

Whether it be forgetfulness, a sense that if the medications don’t appear to be helping (or perhaps causing side effects) they don’t need to be taken, or problems with filling, dosing, affordability or any other reason, seniors in general have poor medication adherence practices.

Growing Trend: 53% of US adults 65 and older own a smartphone (compared to 42% just two years ago) – or approximately 25 million people.

Enter the world of digital…and its thousands of pill reminder and medication management apps and solutions. Can these digital tools be the panacea to helping people – especially seniors – take their medications as prescribed? Do these solutions help?

Do many seniors even own smartphones?
A common belief is that most seniors don’t own smartphones. However, analysis done by the Pew Research Center suggests that this perception is not accurate. According to its June 2019 report, 53% of US adults 65 and older own a smartphone (compared to 42% just two years ago) – or approximately 25 million people. And 30% of US adults between the ages of 73 and 90 owned a smartphone in 2018.

Medisafe Seniors: Two Things We’ve Discovered
In the last three years more than 11% of Medisafe’s users in the US are 65 years or older. In fact, 65% of them are on five or more medications and 36% are on nine or more medications. So, we decided to look into the behaviors and engagement levels of these 65+ year-old Medisafers.

1. Senior Medisafers are active users

We were surprised to learn that compared to younger consumers (<65 years of age), Senior Medisafers have almost double the level of medication-related smartphone interactions (e.g. reading educational information, watching self-help videos, sharing adherence results with family members and care-givers).

In fact, more than 35% of Senior Medisafers record their health measurements in the Medisafe app (e.g., weight, blood pressure, lab results).

Finally, when we compare adherence rates of the population over 65 vs. under 65, we found that Senior Medisafers demonstrate higher adherence rates. The average adherence rate for Senior Medisafers is 80% vs. 77% for the <65 Medisafe population.

2. Senior Medisafers find value in managing medications digitally

Senior Medisafers find digital medication management solutions useful not only for managing their own medications but, in many cases, for managing medications of spouses, and even pets!

Senior Medisafers want their digital support to be simple and reliable. Some of the features they value include medication skip alerts sent to care-givers and family members, drug interaction warnings, and the ability to share actual adherence reports with providers.

Examples of their feedback to us are highlighted below:

      • Gwen …“As a senior citizen, apps are not always for me. This is one I
        could not do without…”


      • Debra …”Keeping this senior citizen on track. Easy app to use. A place to keep all my meds including over counter allergy meds and lets me know when safe to take again…”


      • Name Withheld …”App worth of my time…use over 10 different medications…65-year-old with multiple chronic diseases…peace of mind …like having a nurse beside me 24/7Two years later, I am still using Medisafe and loving it…”


      • Mini….”As a new Asthma sufferer at age of 65 this app is brilliant to remind me to use preventative inhaler morning and evening. Totally impressed! … even add my husband’s medication as I am his caregiver and he takes a lot of medication…”


      • Kim…” Very helpful…Great options for family members also, like getting reports showing how compliant one is being with taking their meds, especially the elderly…”


      • A Google User…” I use it for myself, my daughter, and my elderly cats…”


      • Char…” helped me to take my meds…also alerted me to drug interactions between the medications… I also like the refill optiongreat app forelderly or care givers.”
      • Sami…”my father found it simple to use and accurate”
      • Ami…” I love this app…Love the ‘friends’ feature so that you can look out for each other”


    • Google user…” quite useful…especially for the elderly staying single….”

Three KPIs for building digital programs

Seniors do use smartphones and find value in digital medication programs. However, even though the penetration and use of smartphones is increasing, not all seniors have smartphones as of yet. Creating and launching digital engagement programs for the senior population, therefore, requires a keen focus on having clear and measurable program-level success metrics.

In our experience, successful digital programs manage success via three critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

1. Installation Rates
– Assessing the effectiveness of any program starts with measuring installation rates. Specifically, what % of seniors install the app? Programs designed for sub-populations of seniors with specific conditions (e.g. cardiology), that incorporate personal networks of seniors, and make outreaches to seniors within “x” days of diagnosis or provider interactions should expect 50% or greater installation rates.

2. Activity Levels – Once seniors install the app, it is about activity. Specifically, what percentage of seniors are active users? And for how long? Clearly a number of elements impact these results, however, Medisafe experience suggests successful programs need to have targets of 50% – 65% of activity levels for users over a 12-month period.

3. Impact Created – Value from digital medication programs should ultimately be reflected in two areas – increased overall adherence and better identification of at-risk critical non-adherent individuals. Medisafe’s experience suggests successful programs should target 10%-20% lift in overall adherence levels, and 5%-15% improvement in identification and engagement with at-risk critical non-adherent individuals.

Given trends in smartphone adoption, we believe there is a tremendous opportunity to support all seniors with customized digital medication management programs. As a healthcare system, it is incumbent upon us to help seniors take their medications as prescribed.

Join us on this journey.

Sanjiv Luthra is the SVP of Payers for the Medisafe Medication Management Platform. You can contact him here.

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