Mobile app to help HIV patients adhere to medications

New York: Researchers have developed a smartphone app that could help improve adherence to medications -- such as antiretroviral therapy (ART) -- among people living with HIV by putting the prevention in their pocket.

The app -- named Daily Reports of Using Medications, or DRUM -- could help lead people infected with the disease to quicker intervention in cases where a patient has missed a number of doses.

"Life expectancy has changed dramatically as a result of advances in pharmacotherapy, which is wonderful, but adherence is key. You can live a long, healthy life with HIV, but you have to take your medicines on time," said lead author Sarahmona Przybyla, Assistant Professor at University of Buffalo in New York, in the US. 

The study found that participants often didn't take their medication as a result of a change in daily routine or because they simply forgot. 

Use of substance abuse like alcohol or drugs was the other common reason for not taking medications.

The app has an inbuilt daily report, which asks users to self-report on ART adherence as well as daily substance use.

Substance use has been found as one of the most reliable predictors of poor adherence to ART, the researchers noted.

The researchers found that participants not only found the app easy and convenient to use, they were also willing to provide honest responses to queries and fill the daily adherence report.

For participants who reported that they had used alcohol or drugs in the past 24 hours, the app provides a series of follow-up questions that asks as to why they used the substance and where they were when they used it, with a dropdown menu of answer choices.

"With this app, we can reach out to people with HIV and say, we've noticed you've been using substances and that seems to be related to the fact that you've missed your doses -- what can we do to help you? With the app, it is like putting prevention in their pockets," Przybyla observed in the paper published in the journal AIDS Research and Treatment.