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UF/FSU study helps teens stick with taking their heart medications after a heart transplant

Getting adolescent heart transplant patients to take the medications they need is a constant challenge — whether it’s the added responsibility of multiple medications or just teenage resistance.

Taking those meds is crucial. Otherwise, the risk for organ rejection increases, which is sometimes fatal. Non-adherence rates to medication use among adolescent transplant patients can be as high as 40% to 60%.

A pilot study put together by researchers at the University of Florida and Florida State University found that when patients self-record videos while taking their medications and send them to their medical team, medication use rises. Medical professionals involved in their care can respond to questions or concerns regarding medication use. They also can offer positive reinforcement, says Dr. Dipankar Gupta, a pediatric transplant cardiologist at the University of Florida’s Congenital Heart Center. Gupta and Michael Killian, an associate professor at the Florida State University College of Social Work, are the study’s principal investigators.

The study included 10 teen heart transplant recipients from the UF Health system who had poor medication adherence and who were monitored over 12 weeks. Among the eight who completed the pilot study, they submitted 90% of the videos to show they had taken their medication doses, representing a 21.7% decline in non-adherence.

There also were 800 chat messages exchanged between patients and their medical care teams.

“With the paucity of organ donors and high waitlist mortality, it is prudent that we do everything to improve the chances of post-transplant survival,” Gupta says.

Study results were published earlier this year in the journal Pediatric Transplantation. Gupta and Killian are planning to expand the study to a larger group of adolescent heart transplant patients.

The video platform used in the study is from Baltimore-based Emocha Health, which also has used video-enabled directly observed therapy with asthma, diabetes and hepatitis C patients.