Mobile phone text messaging approximately doubles the odds of medication adherence in patients with chronic diseases, according to the authors of a meta-analysis published online by JAMA Internal Medicine. This increase translates into adherence rates improving from 50% (assuming this baseline rate in patients with chronic disease) to 67.8%, or an absolute increase of 17.8%, researchers reported.

The meta-analysis included 16 randomized clinical trials to assess the effect of text messaging on medication adherence in chronic disease, with 5 of 16 using personalization, 8 of 16 using 2-way communication, and 8 of 16 using a daily text message frequency.

In the pooled analysis of 2742 patients (median age, 39 years and 50.3% [1380 of 2742] female), text messaging significantly improved medication adherence (odds ratio, 2.11; 95% CI, 1.52-2.93; P?<?.001).

However, the authors encourage caution when interpreting their results, in part, because of the reliance on self-reported medication adherence. The authors recommend future studies with a focus on appropriate patient populations, the longevity of the effect and the influence on clinical outcomes.

In a related commentary published by JAMA Internal Medicine, R. Brian Haynes, MD, PhD, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and coauthors write: “In summary, future adherence research needs to overcome the common methodological pitfalls that are still plaguing the field. As Thakkar et al show, TM [text messaging] has potential as a widespread, low-cost technology but will need more development and rigorous testing to determine if it has real, enduring and patient-important benefits that are worth the investment.”