Maybe the old physicians’ line should have gone “Take one pill and call me in the morning.” That’s because nearly half of all patients don’t take their medication as prescribed, something known as medication nonadherence. It’s a growing problem for physicians and their patients, particularly for treatments such as HIV/AIDS Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, which frequently features a complex daily regimen of multiple medications.
Now you may be wondering right now what pills and patients have to do with telecommunications and the answer, as it turns out, is “a lot.” The foundation for good health is built on communication and information, areas where today’s smartphones excel. In fact, mobile communications devices have been vital tools in the field of healthcare dating back to the days of the pager. So when the United Nations sent a challenge to 21st technology providers to use mobile technology in the fight against HIV/AIDS, they were turning to a proven performer. It was a challenge that one company in South Africa accepted, resulting in the creation of mNURSE.
mNURSE is a personalized medication notification and tracking service that works on any GSM phone. Using a combination of USSD and SMS mobile messaging technologies, mNURSE makes sure that patients get the message about the importance of taking their medications. Here’s how it works:
- Patients register for the service from their GSM phone by dialing a specific USSD code (e.g., *100*6877#) based on their medication treatment plan. Each chronic treatment plan (e.g., ARV, tuberculosis, diabetes) has a unique code associated with that plan.
- mNURSE captures their mobile number when they register, and prompts them to notify the service each time they take their medication.
- mNURSE tracks these notifications against their plan and alerts patients and their physicians when medications are missed.
I remember reading a study from a couple of years ago that found 80% of people kept their smartphones with them 22 hours a day (and wondering what those people were doing the other two hours of the day). The omnipresence of smartphones is something that’s actually very unique—a point that obviously wasn’t lost on the United Nations or the makers of mNURSE. By using USSD/SMS messaging, a common and familiar technology, to encourage healthy behavior among chronically ill individuals, mNURSE is turning the mobile handset from a life-enhancing device to a life-saving one.
The underlying technology for mNURSE, originally developed by Pharos Avantgard and today managed by Balefyre, is also well-suited to other applications such as inventory tracking and stock market monitoring. Integral to these applications isDialogic’s signaling technology, which helps Balefyre’s USSD and SMS System V platforms handle high-volume messaging traffic seamlessly and efficiently. For mobile service providers facing flat revenue growth, new revenue-generating messaging services might be just what the doctor ordered.