Survey raises the question: Do patients really know how to use drug delivery devices?

Patients are overconfident in their ability to operate drug delivery medical devices and may not realize that they are using them incorrectly, a comprehensive survey by the U.K.'s Team Consulting shows.

Charlotte Clark

"We have seen some people doing some really odd things with their devices even though they say they've been shown how to do it--or they have made up their own rationale for what they are doing and believe that it's right. As a result, it's important not only that we get the training right in the first place, but that we also continue to monitor technique over time," said Team Consulting Senior Consultant Charlotte Clark in a statement.

The survey of 2,003 patients and 208 doctors, split evenly between the U.S. and U.K., shows patients consistently believe they need less training than doctors think they do when it comes to operating drug delivery devices.

Inhalers have long been the classic example of patient misuse, and the survey results show why. A surprising 41% of patients said they need no help at all using inhalers, compared to 1% of doctors. The majority, or 53%, of doctors said patients need to be shown how to use the device two to four times.

Similarly, a quarter of patients said they don't need help using a nebulizer, while exactly half of all doctors said patients need to be shown how to use it two to four times. And nearly a fifth of patients said they don't need training in the use of an injector pen, compared to no doctors, 52% of whom said patients need to be shown how to use the device two to four times.

Patients were overconfident in their ability to use every category of device surveyed, including needles and syringes, wearable pumps and wearable patches.

Perhaps in the future, empirical evidence and technique monitoring will in fact convince patients that they are not following the proper techniques and should seek further training from a professional. Boehringer Ingelheim is testing the use of its Respimat inhalers with a sensor from COPD and asthma app company Propeller Health attached to the back. In addition, startup CoheroHealth said in October it will test its AsthmaHero app and spirometer for measuring the volume of air inhaled and exhaled by the lungs on 50 patients at New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The challenges of patient training will only rise with the growing prominence of home healthcare. For instance, the FDA reports that a consumer received a burn when she failed to read the fine print of the reusable instant cold pack saying "Do Not Freeze" and applied the device to her arthritic knee after taking it out of the freezer.

"Patients frequently disregard instructions for use as they often resemble risk management documentation, full of lists of Do's and Don'ts in tiny print. We need to reduce this burden on the patients if they are going to be able to rise to the challenge of increasing self-administration," Clark said.

Another trend to be wary of is mobile healthcare. The vast majority of patients want to be trained in person. Only 2% said they prefer to learn how to use drug deliver devices via a smart phone app.

- read the release
- here's the entire survey