Digital voice-activated assistants could help pharmacists to reduce the amount of money spent on wasted NHS drugs, research has shown.

YouGov research showed that digital products, tools and services ‘such as voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa’ could help reduce NHS drugs waste by improving adherence and ‘supporting the work of pharmacists’.

Managing director of ustwo – a digital studio that commissioned the survey of 2,000 people ­– Nicki Sprinz said that ‘adherence is one of the biggest issues in healthcare today’.

‘Real opportunities’

She continued: ‘We think there are real opportunities for digital technologies to help address that, and services like Alexa and Google Home will clearly be part of the solution.

‘The way people have welcomed them into their homes is fascinating – the challenge now is to find really useful things they can do. It might be via daily reminders to take medication – perhaps integrated into a calendaring skill – or by enabling us to contact our GPs or pharmacist if we need a repeat prescription.’

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) estimated that £300m worth of NHS prescribed medicines are wasted every year, of which at least half is avoidable, while non-adherence costs the NHS more than £500m a year.

YouGov’s survey showed that 68% of respondents who had used a prescription drug said they ‘always’ took it at the advised time while 32% did so ‘often’, ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’.

But 48% of those later admitted that they had ‘forgotten’ to take it during their last course, with 15% forgetting their medication once and 24% forgetting two or three times.

Using technology in health care

The findings also revealed that an increasing number of British adults are willing to use new technologies to ‘keep well’.

It showed that 50% who used prescription or non-prescription medication over the last year would find a voice-activated reminder to take their medication on time ‘useful’.

‘As ever though, we have to remember that voice needs to be looked at holistically as part of the healthcare ecosystem. There will always be individuals who cannot rely on the internet to help them manage their healthcare,’ added Ms Sprinz.