Adhering to a medication schedule is tough for many people. Products such as pill reminder boxes have been created to improve adherence, while other companies have chosen to include calendars in prescription packaging. Despite the existence of these products, remembering to take medication is still a big problem. A “smarter” way to track whether patients are taking their pills is desperately in need–-smart to the tune of digital sensors and telephone technology. A company called AdhereTech has created a smart wireless pill bottle that tracks if doses of medication are missed, and when it detects an issue, alerts you via call or SMS. It’s also collecting some pretty important data for healthcare providers.
In 2009, CEO and founder Josh Stein realized that adhering to prescription drugs was a major problem worldwide. “I opened my eyes to the issue that patients just don’t take their meds,” said Stein. He shared his idea with his parents (who are both in the healthcare industry) and in 2013 he launched the first generation AdhereTech smart pill bottle. In 2015, the second generation was launched.
To use the bottle patients are required to register with their pharmacy by providing their phone number; the pharmacy enters a patient’s dosage details and, well, that’s about it. Users will begin to be notified if they do not take their medication as instructed. The only responsibility a user has is to remember to take their meds. But even when they don’t, the bottle will light up with color and an alarm will sound–- both physician and patients are notified of the schedule breach.
“We have a great engineering team. Some of our engineers have worked for big companies like GE and Motorola,” said Stein. The product was designed with cell phone technology, making it more flexible when it comes to text or call transmission. Unlike most “smart” products, the AdhereTech pill bottle does not require users to connect to Wi-Fi, or download an app. Realistically, AdhereTech’s smart medication bottles could be used by patients of all ages, and all backgrounds, regardless of whether or not they are tech-savvy.
Beyond the underlying technology, AdhereTech has also been inspired by the pricing model of mobile phones. “…the bottles are priced similarly to inexpensive cell phones,” explained Stein, “with a bottle fee and monthly service fees.”
Nonadherence to prescription drugs accounts for “30 % to 50 % of treatment failure,” according to the American College of Preventative Medicine. They also reported that issues with adherence could lead to higher hospitalizations rates and to increases in health care cost. This may be why AdhereTech is not the only company attempting to tackle adherence issues.
A company called TinyLogics has also taken a similar approach with their Memo Health Smart Pillbox. The pillbox integrates with the Memo Health app, which is an extra step in the process, but gives users extra benefits like GPS tracking. This allows user to also be notified if they leave their pillbox at home.
As Technology improves, AdhereTech hopes to improve their smart pill bottle. “We’re evolving the backend and tracking the data collected to find ways to improve,” said Stein.
AdhereTech’s Smart Pill Bottle is rechargeable, has a six-plus month battery life and could last for up to five years. The bottle is currently being used by partnering pharmacies and in clinical trials. The bottle can also be ordered through their website.