Challenge Alert

Lock in $15,000 with your donation by 6:30 p.m.

Donate now

    High tech pillbox helps patients stay on track with medications

    Listen
    Philadelphia based start-up TowerView Health is rolling out smart pillbox for patients with complicated medication regimens. (Todd Bookman/WHYY)

    Philadelphia based start-up TowerView Health is rolling out smart pillbox for patients with complicated medication regimens. (Todd Bookman/WHYY)

    For patients with complicated medical conditions, keeping track of which pills to take and at what times can be confusing. As a result, studies find that about 50 percent of people with conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure fail to take their medications as prescribed. That has major consequences, both in terms of patient health, and for avoiding costly hospital visits.

    Lots of companies are working on this problem, trying to use technology to simplify the prescription process. That includes the Philadelphia-based startup TowerView Health. They are about to roll out an updated version of their device, a kind of smart pillbox.

    “So our goal was to create a very simple service and provide that peace of mind to patients and their caregivers, that this would just be done for them,” said Rahul Jain, CEO of TowerView.

    The company launched in 2014 after a colleague was diagnosed with leukemia, and realized just how hard it is to stay on top of a complicated pill schedule.

    Unlike the original version, which Jain generously compares to a fishing tackle box, the new pillbox is white and slick, about the size of an iPad, with a slim light ring around its edges. Drugs arrive in the mail, pre-arranged in easy-to-open blister packs that slip into the case. Each 7-day supply is clearly labelled with the time of day you take it.

    “The pill box actually has sensors embedded in it that can detect when patients remove a dose of their medication. So if they don’t take their medication by the right time, we can send the patient or caregiver a friendly reminder,” he said.

    That reminder can be in the form of a text message or an automated phone call. The unit also has an internal alarm.

    Rather than selling to consumers, TowerView is targeting insurance companies. Patients get the unit for free while insurers bet on savings from healthier customers.

    So far, the unit is only rolling out to select test groups in Philadelphia through a partnership with Independence Blue Cross. Jain says TowerView is adding on five additional health plans by the end of 2016, and expects to have its device in more than 1,000 homes.

    It’s still early, but he says the feedback from users is positive.

    “Just the simplicity, ease of use, really hits home with them.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.