Poor adherence to medications has been a bugaboo in the healthcare system for a long time. When sick patients don’t take their meds, they often get even sicker and end up in the hospital. According to the New England Healthcare Institute, patients who don’t take their medicine when they’re supposed to cost the U.S. healthcare system a mind-boggling $290 billion per year.
This problem caught the attention of entrepreneurs from MIT and physicians affiliated with Harvard Medical School and has led to the creation of several innovative solutions. Among these is an electronic pill box called “Maya” that uses wireless technology and sensors to alert patients with chronic diseases when they don’t take their pills on time.
Another medication-reminder technology is GlowCaps. These “intelligent” caps fit onto standard pill bottles and use light and sound to signal when it is time to take a pill. They also sense when the bottle is opened and wirelessly relay their status to a secure network. If the bottle is not opened after two hours, the user is automatically reminded with a telephone call. Additionally, each week, a report summarizing progress is emailed to the user or care-giver. The caps can even call with refill reminders and connect the patient to their pharmacy as pills deplete.
Other solutions include iPhone apps such as MediMemory.
One company has even developed pills that deliver wireless signals after they are swallowed.
Even though such systems have shown to be effective, there’s still a question of who should pay for the technology. “The way that the economic models are currently set up,” says Joseph Kvedar, director of The Partners Healthcare Center for Connected Health , “it’s the patient’s responsibility to take their medication, and nobody will give them a cash subsidy to cover a program like this.”
Given that costs increase dramatically when patients don’t take their drugs, Word on Health suggests it’s about time insurers started paying attention to initiatives such as this.