Understanding the use of contextual cues: design implications for medication adherence technologies that support remembering

Katarzyna Stawarz, Marcela Rodríguez, Anna L. Cox, Ann Blandford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

269 Downloads (Pure)



Forgetfulness is one of the main reasons of unintentional medication non-adherence. Adherence technologies that help people remember to take their medications on time often do not take into account the context of people’s everyday lives. Existing evidence that highlights the effectiveness of remembering strategies that rely on contextual cues is largely based on research with older adults, and thus it is not clear whether it can be generalized to other populations or used to inform the design of wider adherence technologies that support medication self-management. Understanding how younger populations currently remember medications can inform the design of future adherence technologies that take advantage of existing contextual cues to support remembering.


We conducted three surveys with a total of over a thousand participants to investigate remembering strategies used by different populations: women who take oral contraception, parents and carers who give antibiotics to their children, and older adults who take medications for chronic conditions.


Regardless of the population or the type of regimen, relying on contextual cues—routine events, locations, and meaningful objects—is a common and often effective strategy; combinations of two or more types of cues are more effective than relying on a single cue.


To effectively support remembering, adherence technologies should help users recognize contextual cues they already have at their disposal and reinforce relevant cues available in their environment. We show that, given the latest developments in technology, such support is already feasible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalDigital Health
Early online date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Structured keywords

  • Digital Health


  • medication adhernce
  • digital health
  • contextual cues

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding the use of contextual cues: design implications for medication adherence technologies that support remembering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this