Forget Klondike bars—what would you do for an Amazon gift card? According to a new study, for many people, the promise of free credits to a favorite retailer is enough to help them stick to a medication regimen.
The study comes from Boehringer Ingelheim and HealthPrize Technologies, which have spent much of the last decade developing a gamified program that could encourage people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to improve their medication adherence and therefore potentially improve their health outcomes.
The RespiPoints program initially launched in 2016 with support for Spiriva Respimat, one of Boehringer’s inhaler-based prescription treatments for symptoms of COPD. Within a few years, after early results of the program showed promise in improving adherence, it was expanded to include the Stiolto Respimat and Combivent Respimat inhalation sprays, too.
COPD patients who have been prescribed either of those medications can sign up for the RespiPoints program for free and can access its web-based platform via computer or mobile device. Once enrolled, participants earn points by self-reporting how often they take and refill their medication. Points can also be earned by taking educational quizzes and weekly surveys, viewing daily tips from the program and winning a weekly random drawing or the overall leaderboard competition each month.
Once a participant has racked up enough points, they can exchange them within the RespiPoints “rewards mall” for digital prizes that include e-gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Starbucks and more.
Regular use of the online platform has the added bonus of acting as a personal medication tracker for users, helping them remember whether they’ve taken their daily dose or need to refill the prescription.
The new study looked back at the medication adherence trends of COPD patients who had self-enrolled in the RespiPoints program, focusing specifically on those prescribed Spiriva Respimat and Stiolto Respimat.
In total, participants demonstrated a 44% boost in adherence compared to COPD patients not using the program and were 2.5 times more likely to stick to a prescribed regimen than the non-RespiPoints group. The program also slashed in half the participants’ chances of discontinuing a prescription.
According to the study, RespiPoints users refilled their medications more often—an average of about 8.3 compared to just under 5.5 throughout the study period—and did so much more quickly, with an average gap of about 94 days between refills, compared to nearly double that, 177 days, for those not enrolled in the rewards program.
Those results build on earlier findings from the pilot phase of the program that determined that over half of participants had stayed active in the program for the entire nine-month period—a far cry from the average 9% engagement rate reported by many other health apps.