Trouble remembering to take your medications? Text message reminders may help

Americans are busy people, and with everything that goes on in our daily lives, remembering to take a prescribed medication can be a challenge. But studies show that forgetting your medications has consequences, including creating a more serious and even dangerous health issue. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 70 percent of medication-related hospital admissions in the United States are the result of not taking a prescription medication as directed by a doctor.

The good news is that there are new technologies that are helping remind patients to take their medicines, such as text messages that arrive at a precise day and time. In fact, a recent study of 580 patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension showed that text messaging could help patients stick to their medication schedules.

The study, by OptumRx, a leading pharmacy benefits management company, found that patients receiving text message reminders had higher rates of taking their medication as instructed (known as “medication adherence”) than those who did not – 85 percent vs. 77 percent. The adherence rates for those taking medication for diabetes were even higher – 91 percent vs. 82 percent. Even patients older than 60 showed significant improvement in their adherence with the use of text messages.

“Many of us are using our phones to do more – check the weather, read a news article, research information on a medical condition. It makes sense that reaching patients through technology could improve their adherence, and now we have the evidence to prove that it can, even among older patients,” says Dr. Brian K. Solow, chief medical officer of OptumRx.

The study’s findings on diabetes adherence also are important, Solow says. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 26 million people in the U.S. had diabetes as of 2010.

“Diabetes continues to be a growing, global health issue with devastating complications, including heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputations. Ensuring that people with diabetes stay on their medication as directed can go a long way in helping them maintain and improve their health,” Solow says.

To find out if text message reminders are available to you, contact your pharmacy benefits manager or visit