Case Study

Medication and Exercise Adherence using Mobile Health Technology


Many people aim to comply with their doctor’s orders, but have trouble doing so when the realities of daily life set in. How can we help individuals stick to exercise programs and their prescribed medication regimens?


This project, sponsored by Google, used behavioral research tools delivered through mobile applications to test the types of messages that motivate exercise and medication adherence. Participants were recruited to test four app interfaces - social norms, rituals, habits, and a control group. Each interface allowed participants to access messages via a mobile application encouraging exercise or medication adherence, respectively. Surveys were used to track physical activity (or medication use) and how responses varied across the four conditions.


We did not detect differences in self-reported adherence across groups. We suspect that this was due to a “ceiling effect” where self-reported adherence was too high for all participants (for example, 98% of responses were “yes” to taking medication). This highlights the need to assess adherence with more objective measures, such as with wearables that track activity and electronic pill bottles that measure whether medications are taken.

Why it matters

Google supports a wide range of innovative initiatives to better understand how technologies can be leveraged to promote healthier behaviors in their users.