20 February 2019

App helps young people take their medication correctly

An app that enables chronically ill young people to chat with their pharmacist helps them to take their medication correctly and on time. Researcher Richelle Kosse from Utrecht University: “Many young people are careless about their chronic illness and medication use. The app offers many practical benefits, and ensures that young people who do not comply with their treatment regime start to take their medication better.”

Responsible

On Wednesday, 20 February, pharmaceutical researcher Richelle Kosse defended her dissertation on the effect of a mobile smartphone application developed especially to help young people with asthma to use their medication properly. “Adults are responsible for taking their own medication, and young children’s parents make sure that they get their medication as well, but young people have to learn how to bear that responsibility. They could use a little help with that now and then.”

Talking to young people

By talking to young people, Kosse gained new insights into the attitudes of chronically ill teenagers regarding their medications. She focused on youths between the ages of 12 and 18 who had been diagnosed with eczema, ADHD, or asthma. “I found that on average, eczema patients took their hormone therapy much longer than they actually should. They say: ‘The hormone salve is the only thing that works’.” Kosse’s study of ADHD also showed that young people often forget to take their medication, and they believe that they don’t need it at the weekend. “We also now know that many young people with ADHD suffer from side effects, such as a poor appetite and sleeping problems. Their parents are often concerned about that, but the young people themselves don’t seem to worry too much about it”, according to the PhD Candidate.

Richelle Kosse
Richelle Kosse

Interactive app

The group with asthma was the least likely of the three groups to comply with their therapy, and it was for this group that Richelle Kosse developed the interactive smartphone app. “They think: I’m fine right now, and I won’t miss taking my medication for a day”, she explains. “But it is exactly that daily dosage that is so important in suppressing the chronic inflammations of the respiratory tract. Instead, the young people just take a hit from their inhaler when they feel the symptoms, when in fact that is their emergency medication.” The app has several different functions: a questionnaire patients can use to monitor their asthma symptoms, an alarm that warns patients when it is time to take their medication, instructional videos about the proper use of the medicine, and a secure chat function to directly contact other young asthma patients or the pharmacist.

Chatting with the pharmacist

Kosse’s research has shown that the latter function of the app appears to contribute to improved therapy compliance among the young patients. Kosse: “Young people don’t come to the pharmacist’s often, so the group is more difficult for the pharmacist to reach. As a result, the young patients don’t do enough about side effects and complaints. The app allows them to chat with the pharmacist, who can then give them tips about how to take their medicine or adjust their medication based on the information in their chat sessions.”