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CMU Method Could Help People Take Medication On Time

Ever ask a family member, “Did you take your medicine today?”

There might be a more effective way to prompt people to take their meds on time, a recent Carnegie Mellon University study found.

The 10-month study, conducted in the homes of older adults with chronic health problems, revealed that giving people feedback after they take medication, rather than reminding them on time, has its benefits.

For one, the performance tracking gives people the “intrinsic desire” to want to perform the task better the next time, associate professor of CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute Anind Dey said.

As a result, the study’s participants showed clear improvements.

“They were more accurate in taking their medicine,” Dey said. “They were more compliant in taking their medicine. They were more timely in taking their medicine.”

Dey and co-author Matthew Lee of Phillips Research North America set the adults’ homes up with an instrumental pill box, phone line and coffee maker.

The seven-day pill box tracked which day the person opened it, whether pills had been removed or not and if the person had difficulty opening one of the doors. Results from the previous 24 hours were displayed on a tablet.

The phone line and coffee maker were used to detect signs of cognitive decline. With the monitoring devices, the researchers could detect how many times the adult misdialed the phone and if they had physical difficulty performing the tasks required to make a cup of coffee.

“If you can detect the earlier mistakes that people make before a real mistake presents itself, those are instances where you can say there’s a chance that there’s some cognitive decline going on here,” Dey said.

These results can point occupational therapists toward patients who need the most help, according to Dey.

“Given that they have limited time and a lot of patients to see, you might be able to direct their attention and say, this is a patient that may need more of your attention,” Dey said. “Where this other patient that you might go visit, they actually seem to be doing fine. You could actually delay your visit to that person.”

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