MyTherapy: Improving Medication Adherence with Health Tech

Sylvana Lewin, Thursday February 22nd 2018

In 2016, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most severely affected region, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (4.2%) living with HIV, and accounts for nearly two thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide. With the help of antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV are now living longer and with a better quality of life than ever before. However, taking these medications in a timely manner is critical to treatment and adherence remains a pain point that needs to be addressed.

Medication adherence is important for many things, from birth control to antibiotics to ARTs. When medications are forgotten or skipped, most treatments are no longer as effective. MyTherapy, a medication and health tracker app, is one startup using tech to improve medication adherence. We spoke with Tracey Ruff from the MyTherapy team to learn all about their Health Tech solution!

What is MyTherapy? Tell us a bit about the app. 

MyTherapy is a medication reminder and health tracker app that is designed to improve medication adherence and help people manage health-related conditions. The app was developed by digital health company, smartpatient,based in Munich, Germany.

Currently, we have over 500 000 users, a number that is growing all the time. The app is available on both Android and iOS and is completely free. Our goal is to help patients get the best out of their treatment plans, which ultimately contributes to a healthier society – meaning that there is less burden on healthcare systems, which ultimately helps the economy.

MyTherapy comes with a variety of features, including:

  • Medication reminders: The core function of the app, which reliably notifies users when their medication is due.

  • Measurements: Users can record important measurements such as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, temperature etc.

  • Track symptoms: Users can consistently monitor how they are feeling via a scale (feeling very bad to feeling very good) and record their symptoms to show how they are progressing.

  • Activity reminders: In addition to medication, reminders can be used for activities such as running, walking etc., to help encourage a healthy lifestyle.

  • Family and friends: Users can invite family and friends on the app so that they can offer extra support and encouragement.

  • At the end of each month, users have the option of receiving a monthly health report available in both print and online format. This report comes in easy-to-read graphs, which the user can then give to his/her doctor. MyTherapy is thus patient- and doctor-centred, meaning that both parties get maximum benefit out of treatment plans.

Users simply need to log their medication and other necessary information to use the app. Once the user has set medication reminders, the app will remind the user to take his/her medication via an alarm and pop-up until he/she has done so by pressing the ‘confirm’ button. The app is for anyone taking medication – no matter for what, no matter for how long.

Why do you believe MyTherapy could bring about an important change in African health care? 

Medication adherence in Africa is notoriously poor due to a plethora of socioeconomic factors. The same can be said of healthcare systems across the continent due to a lack of government funding, a shortage of staff, and not enough resources.

HIV, AIDS, and chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, are widely prevalent in Africa, and in order to manage these illnesses effectively, patients need to take their medication on time each day. This is especially true for HIV, where drug resistance can develop and the medication can become ineffective.

This is how MyTherapy can help. Improved adherence means a healthier society and ultimately, a reduced burden on healthcare systems.  Moreover, easier access to data also helps doctors and policy makers make better informed decisions about how to improve the healthcare system.

Medication adherence is ultimately a chain reaction: patients take their medication effectively and responsibly, which leads to them managing their condition and feeling better. This then reduces the amount of times they need to visit either a doctor or hospital. In turn, this reduces the burden placed on doctors and hospitals. Furthermore, if patients are adhering to their medication regimens, there is less wastage of medication, which ultimately saves the healthcare system money.

What makes MyTherapy different from other Health Tech applications? 

First, we are committed to providing a free, useful, and practical service to our users to help them receive the best outcome possible from their treatment plans. Secondly, we consistently update our app and conduct research to see how we can make improvements for our users. We are currently working on a Behavior Change project,  implementing more Behaviour Change Techniques to ensure that our app brings about positive changes in our users. Our app is also available in 20 languages, with more to come,

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the African healthcare industry today? 

Fewer than 50% of Africans have access to modern health facilities, and many African countries spend less than 10% of their GDP on healthcare. As a South African, I see firsthand how the public healthcare sector suffers. Dilapidated infrastructure, a lack of crucial resources, a shortage of well-trained medical staff, and corruption are but a few of the massive challenges the African healthcare system is facing. Poverty and a lack of transport to facilities are also major problems and for the vast majority, access to private healthcare is simply not an option.

Moreover, apart from well-known disease like HIV and TB, Africa is seeing a rise in non-communicable diseases like hypertension and diabetes. These are often fatal, without access to medication, and many clinics in impoverished areas often lack or run out of these life-saving medications.

It goes without saying that there is massive inequality between the rich and poor across the continent – and this often means the difference between life and death. Those who live in poverty simply do not have the access to decent medical treatment. From a South African perspective, doctors working in the public healthcare sector are overworked and have to deal with unhygienic conditions, limited resources, and an overwhelming number of patients. This all means that patients do not get adequate treatment and long queues to see a doctor often mean that patients have to go home without being seen.

Ultimately, governments are failing their people, and intervention from the private sector, for example, is desperately needed to make a difference.

If you’re interested in learning more about how technology is being used to improve global health, make sure to read Technology and Humanitarian Assistance: Changing the Face of Women’s Health Worldwide.