Researchers Awarded $1M NIH Grant for mHealth Study with Kidney Transplant Patients

Jan. 7, 2016
Charleston-based Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researchers have been awarded a $1.11 million National Institutes of Health grant to examine the use mobile health technology to reduce kidney transplant recipient premature graft loss.

Charleston-based Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researchers have been awarded a $1.11 million National Institutes of Health grant to examine the use 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, according to release from MUSC announcing the grant.

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.

The project is being undertaken by researchers in MUSC College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and the College of Nursing.

According to Dr. McGillicuddy, 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,” Dr. 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.

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

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.

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