News Feature | June 4, 2015

Can A Digital Pillbox Improve Medication Adherence?

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

HTO e-Prescription

Blue Cross and Penn Medicine are about to test the idea that a digital pillbox which tracks medication schedules and alerts patients to take their pills may be a solution to poor medication adherence.

Medication adherence is an important part of keeping patients healthy, but there is only so much a provider can do once the patient leaves the office. So how can you keep your patients on track with their medications after they return home? A startup company called TowerView Health thinks the solution may be a digital pillbox.

TowerView Health’s founders, classmates at Duke University, were inspired to come up with a solution when one of them had the experience of being overwhelmed by medications after being diagnosed with leukemia. Nick Valilis went from taking no medications, to taking more than ten a day - and it became confusing. One of his classmates, now TowerView Health CEO Rahul Jain, told ModernHealthcare, “He struggled handling the sheer complexity. How is an 85-year-old cancer patient supposed to handle that same regimen?”

iHealth Beat explains a patients' prescribed medication is labeled by a mail-order pharmacy and delivered in a medication tray with directions and ingestion schedules as prescribed by the provider. The patient then places their medications in the digital pillbox, which uses sensor to tell when the pills are removed. If the pillbox senses a dose has been missed, it can alert the patient via text message or a visual reminder, such as a blinking light. The box also keeps track of all the information for follow up visits with the doctor.

“Most of the apps I've seen are reminder apps,” said Dr. Ron Brooks, senior medical director for clinical services at Independence Blue Cross. “It might remind you to take a medication, but you have to input that you actually take it. There's no closing of the loop.” The technology from TowerView, however, automatically provides reminders and tracking, with the opportunity for clinician follow-up.

“This solution allows more of a communication element,” said Jain. “We'll be able to understand why patients don't take their meds.”