October 17, 2008

Child medication reminder program moving forward

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(photo by Neil Brake)

Child medication reminder program moving forward

Kevin Johnson, M.D., vice chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt Medical Center, traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 17 to present a final report on his Project HealthDesign grant.

The grant, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports the creation of a new generation of personal health record systems and provides $300,000 for 18 months.

Johnson's project, “My-Medi-Health: A Vision for a Child-focused Personal Medication Management System,” seeks to eliminate the kinks that hinder communication between children, parents and school officials regarding children taking their medications on time and effectively.

“We want to empower kids to be more involved and dismiss the myth that medication management is not a child's world,” Johnson said.

In Johnson's pilot program, young cystic fibrosis patients were given a pager that reminded them to take medications, and alerted parents and school officials if a dose was missed. Twenty children between the ages of 5 and 10 were enrolled in the four-month study, and 85 percent of families considered the program successful and wanted to continue.

Johnson's team is also designing and testing new technologies, including the “Pillsberry,” a device that attaches to a cell phone or pager that is equipped with medication-holding drawers that open when it is time for a dose. A prototype of the My-Medi-Health Web site allows parents to schedule medication dosages, set alert reminders and monitor when doses were taken.

“We received constructive feedback, and all felt that our project had potential to provide a valuable platform for home-centered medication management,” Johnson said.

At the forum, Johnson participated in a discussion that explored how personal health records could link to a range of technologies that people use every day, like cell phones and digital assistants.

“I was excited by the level of the discussion, which not only exposed provocative issues, but also addressed pragmatic concerns and needs,” Johnson said. “Conferences such as this always help put research in perspective and disclose the steps needed to achieve impact outside of the laboratory.”

He also presented a poster outlining My-Medi-Health and met with the grantees, members of Congress and their staff, and representatives from organizations with an interest in personal health records.

“It was an opportunity to form new alliances and see how the project can improve. We were very surprised at the amount of interest people had in medication reminders,” Johnson said.

Johnson will continue to develop the My-Medi-Health system, and will meet with a group of parents this fall to demonstrate his prototypes and get their feedback.

“Parents are an essential partner for young children, and parents of children with chronic illness often make a significant investment that relates, in part, to their own needs. It would be impractical to create a system for children that did not recognize partnering with families,” Johnson said.

Christopher Harris, M.D., director of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is a collaborator on the grant.