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Nyack Hospital Tracks Medication Compliance
The RFID system enables the hospital to know when discharged patients fail to comply with their prescription regimen, or when side effects occur.
When the time comes for the patient to take her medication, she receives an automated call on her eMedonline phone, which comes with a touch screen. Once she answers the call, a computerized voice speaks to her, and the text of the call appears on the screen, identifying that the call is from eMedonline and telling her which prescription she should be taking. It then asks a series of questions—such as whether she plans to take the medication now, whether she has enough for the full dose, and whether her prescription has been changed by her physician—and also asks about her physical condition, such as whether she is experiencing headaches or nausea. All responses can be made using the touch screen, by selecting from the listed prompts.
The patient then places the tagged prescription bottle within a few inches of the reader on the phone, which reads the tag's unique ID number. That ID is transmitted to the Web-based server, via a GSM cellular connection, and the eMedonline software determines whether the tag ID matches that of the drug she should be taking at that particular moment. The software also causes the phone to display a photograph of the pills, which the patient can refer to as confirmation that she is taking the appropriate medicine.
The eMedonline software, residing on the server, collects and stores information related to the patient's compliance rate, compliance time (for example, when the drug was actually taken, compared with the time it was supposed to be taken), health status and behavior (as reported by the patient), such as side effects, weight gain or mood—all of which the user inputs into the system by responding to questions at the time each call is received.
If an individual appears to have failed to take the prescribed medication, Pinto says, a message can be sent to the hospital. For example, he notes, "We get an e-mail indicating that patient 1234 missed an 8 a.m. dose." If the patient has a caregiver, such as a neighbor or family member, who can assist with regimen compliance, an e-mail or text message can be sent to that individual as well, letting him or her know that the patient has not taken her medication as prescribed.
Leap of Faith developed the eMedonline solution after researching the behavior of individuals receiving health-care treatment. "We discovered that people invariably had difficulty managing their medications, particularly as they age and as regimens became more complex," says Barbara Rapchak, Leap of Faith's founder and CEO. "We had been monitoring the use of cell phones, and had been interested in the potential of RFID. The end result was the systems innovation that is eMedonline. We were able to put together existing and emerging technologies in an innovative way, leveraging the capabilities of each."
The hospital intends to test the system with up to 20 patients at a time for the next six months, and then to determine whether it was a success. If Pinto and Tsirkas find, in fact, that the system has helped them manage patients' medication regimen, and ensure that they continue to take their medication, the two hope to permanently deploy the technology in multiple departments.
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