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A pilot of our digital support programme to help patients take their medicine more effectively has proven to be successful in its initial phase. The pilot, run by Sciensus, in partnership with Spoonful of Sugar Ltd, a University College London (UCL) Business Company, is designed to enable the development of digital support programmes that encourage better adherence and persistence in patients taking medicines. The longer-term objective is to improve treatment outcomes for better patient health.

The programme, accessed via the Sciensus Intouch patient app, not only prompts patients to take their medication, but also promotes wellbeing through goal setting and tracking. A patient profiler tool helps to identify and overcome the key barriers driving non-adherence.

The pilot, run with a large cohort of patients, involves leveraging Spoonful of Sugar’s (SoS) expertise in the application of behavioural science. Understanding the factors driving non-adherence could change the future of medicine taking and lower the risk of patients not taking their medicine correctly or stopping their treatment early.

The profiling tool, Persignia™, was developed by Spoonful of Sugar and is founded on decades of academically validated work conducted by Rob Horne, Professor of Behavioural Medicine at University College London, and his team of leading researchers. It is designed to uniquely tailor support to meet the needs of individual patients by identifying and addressing their personal concerns and questions about their medicine. It incorporates the core behavioural components recommended in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for medicines adherence and optimisation.

Early analysis, based on data from more than 3,500 Intouch app users with autoimmune conditions, showed significant improvement in patients’ persistence and adherence, with over a 20% reduction in patients stopping their medicine course. Over 50% of users have been actively engaging with the features included in the app and 55% have found those features to be helpful in supporting their medicine adherence.

We found that while most patients were aligned with their personal need for treatment, there were several identified concerns and behavioural barriers which may influence adherence. These concerns included for example, anxiety around injections, current and potential future side effects and possible immune system weakening. However, analysis of app users who used the profiler showed that over 50% of these concerns were addressed and overcome by digital interventions, embedded in the Sciensus Intouch app.

There were also practical issues, mainly related to travel and administration, which may also contribute to patient’s non-adherence. These concerns and practical barriers were found to increase over time on treatment, supporting the need for ongoing evaluation and support to monitor and promote regular and effective medicine taking.

With data from millions of patient interactions over the last 30 years, Sciensus is in a unique position to analyse and understand the large variations seen in adherence amongst various patient cohorts. The more that we understand about why people may not take their treatments as prescribed, the more apps such as ours can do to support them in the right way to get better health outcomes.

Further planned phases of the pilot will see us trying to identify those patients with an increased risk of non-adherence based on early identification of patient signals, with the goal of further developing existing and new support interventions.

Richard B
“Blending features of behavioural science with digital insights and encouraging patient interaction will transform the future of effective treatment. We are incredibly proud to have worked with Spoonful of Sugar and their team of world-leading behavioural scientists on better understanding predictive patient characteristics that impact medication adherence. The initial results are very encouraging and Sciensus is already working on optimising the programme. This will allow us to better understand our patients so they can make the most of their medicines, keeping them well for longer, reducing pressure on health systems such as the NHS, and reducing medicines waste.

Richard Blyth, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at Sciensus

“The Sciensus and Spoonful of Sugar collaboration provides a real-world example of how behavioural science can be applied in practice to help patients get the best from their medicines. I am particularly pleased that the Persignia™ application, developed from our research programme at UCL, was incorporated into the Sciensus Intouch app. This enabled us to tailor support to meet the particular needs of individual patients as recommended by NICE. Working with a major pharmacy services provider has enabled us to deliver the benefits of our research at scale. Our research has shown that an understanding of patients’ beliefs about treatment is core to effective adherence support, and collaborations of this kind illustrate how this can be achieved in practice.

Professor Rob Horne, Director for the Centre for Behavioural Medicine, University College London