Pillboxes May Not Belong in the “Internet of Things” After All

Many people working in the healthcare space have been excited about the potential of expanding device connectivity to medication administration in recent years. After all, pill bottles are “things” so why not incorporate them into the “Internet of Things,” right?

As a result, various private innovation firms, as well as major pharmaceutical companies, have been making significant investments in developing “connected” medication dispensing systems in an effort to combat poor treatment compliance.

Lack of compliance – a patient’s inability to take a given medication as intended by their physician – is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $100 billion to $300 billion dollars a year.

Take, for example, a therapy that is self-administered once daily that also needs to be titrated to meet the unique, metabolic needs of a particular patient. If the patient skips a few doses, goes in for a follow up and swears, “Scout’s Honor, Doc!” that he didn’t miss a day – but in fact only remembered to take it about 60% of the time – the dose adjustment the HCP gives him to meet his unique, but misrepresented, needs may trigger an adverse event – pharma-speak for “serious side-effect” – if he suddenly decides to take the medication as intended.

Now consider the value of a medication container that communicates with the patient’s Bluetooth equipped phone. It can remind the patient to take his medication, record the time it was taken down to the second, and, when paired with a wearable technology, could also record additional health related data that gives additional context. This additional context also gives the health care provider more context in which to manage chronic conditions.

When paired with a relevant app, it can also give an additional view into consumer behavior to help marketers better understand optimal cadence and content topics to increase performance in their marketing plans.

However, a recent study published in JAMA showed that a study of post heart attack patients who were provided electronic pill bottles, combined with financial incentives and social support for medication adherence, had the same outcome in terms of re-hospitalization rate, medication adherence, and total medical costs as those who were not provided these resources.

Why It’s Hot:

While making the health connection has been a major leap forward from a technological perspective, it hasn’t solved the challenge of reshaping human behavior. Yet.

Until this technology has a better rate of success in reshaping patient outcomes, broader adoption of this technology may be in question.