Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used by healthcare providers to better understand the effectiveness of prescribed drugs to treat a health disorder. It is also being used to better understand whether an individual patient is likely to forget to take a prescribed drug. The problem of forgetting to take a prescribed daily medication (or take it correctly) has huge implications. This is especially so for seniors with chronic health disorders. For example, not taking daily blood pressure (BP) medication to control high BP can lead to a spike in BP. In turn, this can result in a stroke. Therefore, knowing which patients need medication reminders and/or are likely to fail to take their prescribed medications is critical.  

How senior-aged adults typically receive in-person medication reminders 

The following are four customary ways that seniors receive “in-person” reminders to take their prescribed daily medications: 

  • Reminder from a spouse or other family member living in the same home with the older-aged person. 
  • Visits and/or phone calls from a family member or other loved one. 
  • Follow-up phone calls to a patient from a primary care doctor and/or neighborhood drugstore to check whether that person is taking a specific prescribed medication. 
  • Reminders during a scheduled visit by a paid caregiver such as a home health aide. 

Relying on other people for reminders at any age can be risky, but it can be especially unreliable for senior-aged adults. Problematically, at least 27% of senior-aged adults live alone, the majority have no nearby adult children, and many married elderly people have a spouse with dementia. The problem of forgetting to take prescribed drugs and/or not taking them as physician-instructed (termed nonadherence) is especially found in older-aged adults who take multiple medications, according to a Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care article. 

Can AI enable improved medication understanding and patient adherence? 

It is widely recognized among Health Information Technology (HIT) researchers that the huge patient datasets used by Artificial Intelligence (AI) can determine far more rapidly than healthcare providers or medical researchers: 

  1. Whether a specific medication is more likely to manage a chronic health disorder (such as high blood pressure) in patients based on characteristics such as age, when compared to a different drug.
  2. Whether patients with certain health disorders are more likely to forget taking a prescribed daily drug, take it at the wrong time of day, or take too many (or too few) daily doses.
  3. Whether patients with a past history of nonadherence to prescribed medication are more likely to be nonadherent to a new prescribed medication, as based on the reason for the past nonadherence. 

How AI medication reminders powered are delivered to patients  

An ever-increasing number of physician practices, healthcare systems, pharmacies, and insurance companies are utilizing AI-powered medication-reminder apps to contact patients. That contact is most often made to the recipient’s landline or smartphone in the form of an automated phone call. Meanwhile, smartphones and other digital devices can (and do) receive additional reminders via email and text, based on the patient’s preference. 

The reason for the booming AI medication-reminder trend

The primary reason AI-powered medication reminders have caught on so quickly among clinicians, pharmacists, and insurers (such as Medicare Advantage plans) is that a tremendous amount of staff time and energy is required to deliver a personal medication reminder to every patient that needs these reminders. However – while automated medication reminders can improve patient medication adherence – an article in Preventive Medicine concluded that interactive medication reminders are the most effective at increasing medication adherence.  

Unlike automated reminders, interactive reminders can enable patients to ask questions and receive immediate answers about their prescribed medications. Therefore, an increased utilization of AI-powered chatbots (that simulate conversation) to answer patients’ medication questions is occurring. In this way, senior-aged patients taking multiple daily medications are less likely to skip taking one of their daily pills, get their dosages mixed up, and not understand the importance of taking each of the medications for their overall health. 

As an increasing percentage of senior-aged adults acquire smartphones and other digital devices, AI is likely to take the place of in-person medication reminders on the part of healthcare providers, pharmacies, and insurance companies. That is a good thing since many people – and especially senior-aged people – still do not receive the frequent medication reminders they need to ensure proper adherence.