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MUSC researchers study how mobile technology can help kidney transplant patients

Lauren Hooker | MUSC News Center | December 22, 2015

Health Technology
Photo by Brunner-Jackson
Wireless devices interact with smartphones and tablets to help patients adhere to the rigorous schedule of medications that need to be taken if you are a kidney transplant recipients. 

A group of MUSC researchers in the College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and the College of Nursing has been awarded a $1.11 million National Institutes of Health grant to examine a novel use of mobile health technology to reduce kidney transplant recipient premature graft loss.

Despite significant advances in the care of kidney transplant patients, long-term graft survival remains poor, largely due to medications not being taken as directed. Kidney transplant patients have a rigorous schedule of medications  the average kidney transplant patient takes 15 medications a day.

John McGillicuddy, M.D., associate professor of surgery in the Division of Transplant Surgery, is leading a collaborative team to study an innovative approach using individually tailored mobile health (mHealth) technology to help patients take their medications as directed and monitor their blood pressure.

Dr. John McGillicuddy 
Dr. John McGillicuddy 

McGillicuddy said patients often have a hard time remembering when to take each medication. Timing is another issue, because it can be just as important as the order in which the medication is taken.

“We know it’s asking a lot to expect the patient to stay on track with their medications,” McGillicuddy said. “Unfortunately, we also know medication non-adherence and the resulting uncontrolled hypertension are predominant risk factors for premature graft rejection, graft loss and death. With this study, we’re looking at ways to keep patients on schedule with a computer automated monitoring system using mobile technology to improve patient outcomes.”

An initial study showed patients using the mobile technology dramatically improved their medication adherence and blood pressure levels, but the study was too small to show an impact on the kidney graft. The NIH grant provides funding to expand the study. McGillicuddy serves as the principal investigator for the grant.

MUSC has a history of testing mobile technology for use in medical settings, and one of the key players in that area, Frank Treiber, Ph.D., is involved with the new study. He directs the Technology Applications Center for Healthful Lifestyles, which specializes in developing technology-based products to foster health promotion and disease prevention.

McGillicuddy said Treiber and his colleagues bring expertise in health technology and patient-centered clinical research to the team. “It really is a powerful example of a multidisciplinary approach to improve patient care through collaboration.”

Potential outcomes of the kidney transplant recipient premature graft loss research include improving patient care, advancing long-term graft survival and decreasing costs through a reduced need for dialysis.

Lauren Hooker is a communications specialist in the Department of Surgery.



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