Glaucoma Treatment Compliance Improved Using Automated Phone Calls

Glaucoma treatment improved with automated phone callsStandard glaucoma treatment depends on adherence to a program of medication and medical appointments. A recent study indicated that an interactive, automated series of phone calls to glaucoma patients increased compliance with their treatment. However, the control group who received no calls had equally good compliance, indicating further research is needed.

The lowest glaucoma treatment compliance rates are typically found among African Americans and patients who do not understand the importance of treating glaucoma over the long term. This study was conducted on 312 patients at an eye clinic at a large public hospital and at a Veterans Affairs facility eye clinic. They were mostly male and African American, with an average age of 63, and had a history of not taking their medication regularly, not refilling their prescriptions, and not keeping all the recommended medical appointments.

The control group received the typical program, which put the burden on the patient to remember to refill prescriptions, as well as regularly keep medical appointments. However, it’s possible that they became more compliant because they were asked to participate in the study, and this drew attention to their non-compliance. They may have become highly motivated to stay abreast of their treatment. It is also possible that adherence fluctuates over time more than previously believed.

The study appeared in  Archives of Ophthalmology and was conducted by Karen Glanz, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues. It used three measurements of adherence based on self-reporting, and three measures based on reviews of medical records.

Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease that results in vision loss and tunnel vision. Fluid pressure builds up in the eye. Glaucoma affects more than 2 million Americans aged 40+.  The standard medications prescribed for glaucoma can slow the progressive loss of vision.

The automated calls were a series of twelve interactive calls that took place over a nine-month period of time. These patients were also given printed documents tailored to their needs.

The researchers concluded, “new technologies, such as interactive voice recognition and electronic reminder devices, may play a supportive role in the effort to improve adherence in patients with glaucoma.”

Editor’s Note: While it is important to comply with any course of treatment needed, nutrition and lifestyle are continuously the subject of scientific research on glaucoma treatment and prevention. See our glaucoma recommendations.

Study: Glanz K, et al “Impact of a health communication intervention to improve glaucoma treatment adherence: results of the interactive study to increase glaucoma adherence to treatment trial” Arch Ophthalmol 2012; 130: 1-7; DOI: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2012.1607.