Faculty members create app to screen patients for medication use

Need a simple way to find out if your patients are properly taking their medications? There’s an app for that. And it was created by Campbell University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences' faculty members Penny Shelton, PharmD, and Ted Hancock, PharmD.


The idea started back in 2005. Shelton was working as a consultant for a medication adherence project with the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP) and the American Society on Aging. She was developing a tool to identify and assess senior patients who fail to take their medications as prescribed by their doctors. According to the project, if medication non-adherence were a disease, it could be termed an epidemic. It is estimated that medication non-adherence results in 125,000 deaths annually, and costs the US health care system $100 billion per year. Of all age groups, older adults with chronic diseases and conditions are most at risk.


Around that same time, Shelton was also consulting senior patients at an assisted living facility. In her practice, she was looking for something to assess medication use from an adherence standpoint, but she couldn’t find a tool that was as comprehensive as she needed it to be. So she decided to create her own instrument, the Medication Adherence Individual Review—MedAdhIR. It was developed in a paper format with two components, a screening tool and a comprehensive assessment. 


The screening tool flags individuals who need to be further examined. The comprehensive assessment then drills down to an array of factors recognized by the World Health Organization that are highly associated with why individuals fail to take their medications as properly prescribed. The factors range from patient-related problems to socioeconomic issues.


The tool was adopted by a few organizations, but Shelton wanted to make it more widely available to practitioners through an electronic venue.


In 2011, Shelton was working full-time at Campbell University's College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. She contacted her colleague, Ted Hancock, to discuss the possibilities of creating an app for MedAdhIR. Hancock had worked as a professional software developer for 12 years prior to becoming a pharmacist, and was excited about the opportunity to develop the app.  They decided to start with an app for the screening tool, since the comprehensive assessment would be more complicated.


Shelton got ASCP involved later that year. She was preparing to serve as president of the organization by developing a strategic plan, and she wanted to include the app as one of her initiatives. A huge focus for ASCP is expanding the organization’s reach to pharmacists and other health professionals who work with older adults. This app is an opportunity to care for the senior population, so Shelton was able to create an innovations committee to produce the app. Hancock served on the committee along with other ASCP members who contributed to the design and development decisions.


“I produced YouTube videos about twice monthly to demonstrate the user interface and solicit input on changes,” Hancock said. “This spring we distributed early versions of the Android ® and Apple ® app to pharmacy students at several schools who were conducting brown bag events for senior adults.”


ASCP launched the app in May during the organization’s Spring Conference and Exhibition in Anaheim. As president of ASCP, Shelton made the announcement during the opening session, and Hancock provided demonstrations for the app in the exhibit hall throughout the entire conference.


The app presents a series of ten questions and calculates a risk score from zero to 10. There are three additional questions that test for serious adherence problems. If the score exceeds two, or if any of the final three questions are issues, the app recommends that the patient receive a comprehensive evaluation by a senior care pharmacist. A button is available on the results page that brings up a directory of senior care pharmacists in the area.


The app is available for $0.99 and includes any updates free of charge. Search “MedAdhIR” at Apple ® and Google Play ® stores to download the app.


As for the next step, the innovations committee at ASCP is focusing on a second app for the comprehensive assessment portion of MedAdhIR. They hope to have it available within the next year.


“I feel good that we’ve actually created something that makes it easier for pharmacists to screen patients for non-adherence,” Shelton said. “I think there is a lot of potential, and we’ll just have to see if it catches on.”


Photo: Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Ted Hancock demonstrates the new MedAdhIR app during the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists’ Spring Conference.