Integrating medication delivery with smartphones to save lives and money - Embedded.com

Integrating medication delivery with smartphones to save lives and money

It's fortuitous that the forthcoming Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), which is to be held April 13-14, 2016, in Boston, is to be co-located with three partner events, and that one of these partner events will be BIOMEDevice 2016, because I was just introduced to an amazing device that spans the embedded and medical domains.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have to take medications over a period of time, I have a tremendous amount of difficulty remembering if I've taken them or not. Currently, the only medication I'm on is Crestor, which I take to control my cholesterol. All I have to do is take one pill a night before I go to bed. You'd think that would be simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many times I've laid there looking at the bottle thinking “Did I already take you or not?” Eventually, I err on the side of caution and don’t take a pill in case it's my second, but not taking the pill isn’t doing me much good either.

My dear old mom now has to take a number of pills at different times of the day. One of these medications is the anticoagulant Warfarin. I'm not sure how many times she has to take this each day, but I do know that the dosage varies day by day and that she has to take it within a very narrow window of time. Whenever I'm visiting and we're chatting, she'll suddenly leap up and say “Goodness! Is that the time? I'm late to take my pills!” Then we all run around in circles trying to find her purse and fetching glasses of water and suchlike.

I know some older folks who have a medication regime that would make your eyes water. Goodness only knows how they keep track of things. The problem is that, very often, they don't, which explains why there are thousands of deaths each year from people either forgetting to take their medication at all, or forgetting that they've already taken it and so they take it again… and again… and again…

Until now, the only aids of which I was familiar were the regular plastic pill containers you can pick up at the pharmacist. These come in all shapes and sizes, and they are certainly useful for remembering which pills to take on which days — some even break the day up into morning and evening — but they aren’t so hot when it comes to reminding you to take your medications as a specific time.


(Source: pixabay.com)

More recently I've discovered that programmable pill dispensers are available, but it's still up to the patient or caregiver to verify the medications, place them in the appropriate compartments, and manually program the medication schedule. Even worse, the programmable pill dispensers I've seen are the size of an electric toaster, which means they are OK for home use, but not something you would care to carry around with you on a trip to the cinema, for example.

In addition to patients dying, medication non-adherence increases health care costs by hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Furthermore, counterfeit drugs cost the pharmaceutical industry tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue each year.

All of which brings us to a really cool invention called InterMed, which was conceived by Steve Mullen. InterMed comprises two components — a software app that you download onto your smartphone coupled with a mechanical pill dispenser that clips onto the back of the phone.


(Source: InterMed.com)

Although they are hard to see in the image above, a number of Smart-Carts are plugged into the main InterMed case. In addition to the pills themselves, each Smart-Cart contains an embedded memory chip that is programmed with an encrypted medication ID and a digital prescription, which is used to automatically program the medication schedule.


(Source: InterMed.com)

Different members of the InterMed family can be designed to fit any Smart Phone, and the number of Smart-Carts is limited only by the size of the phone in question. The phone will vibrate and/or give an audible warning when it's time to take one or more of your medications. One very useful feature is to be able to see a picture and description of each type of pill as illustrated below.


(Source: InterMed.com)

Pushing a button dispenses the pills. The system also automatically creates a medication log showing which pills you took when. Click Here and Click Here to discover more details about the medication non-adherence problem and the InterMed solution.

I, for one, think this is a brilliant idea. It may take some time to get rolling, but I can well imagine patients going to the pharmacist and, instead of being presented with pill bottles they can’t read or open, being given Smart-Carts that they slot into the InterMed connected to the back of their smartphones.

The designer of the this little beauty, Steve Mullen, will be attending ESC in Boston, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting up with him there and seeing the InterMed in person. I will of course be reporting back (with pictures) after the conference. Until then, what do you think about the InterMed concept?

16 thoughts on “Integrating medication delivery with smartphones to save lives and money

  1. “It's cool for the first 30 seconds,then it turns into a bad idea.nHow many potential users can handle a smatphone?nIs is safe to keep the pills this way, temps, humidity? nWhat do you do if you drop all your pills in the toilet? nShaking the pills all

    Log in to Reply
  2. “I hear what you're saying, but I have an aunt with dementia who could really use this. Also I can see a need for folks who are addicted to pain meds who need something to force them to only take the meds on schedule.nnLet me take a look at it at ESC and

    Log in to Reply
  3. “Don't link the form factor with the functionality. Any connected container can deliver similar functionality. I took issue with the form factor.nDo ask if they use the fingerprint sensor to unlock, would be slightly safer.”

    Log in to Reply
  4. “The InteMed technology can be used in a table top version as well as the mobile unit. The key is the smart packaging, which I call SmartCarts. A pharmacy would fill them with the pills, then program an ID and digital prescription onto the embedded memory.

    Log in to Reply
  5. “What's the design for the table top version and how is it powered?nHow do you adapt to pill sizes, there are 20-30 different types. The number of pills that can fit in a module will vary and in some cases there is room for very few. nA different number

    Log in to Reply
  6. “RealjjjnThere is no one answer to deal with all of the issues involved in medication adherence. Most of the questions you ask, could be asked about a regular pill bottle and all can be dealt with relatively easily. The key is that this is the first devic

    Log in to Reply
  7. “A connected container is not new by any means and to claim to be the first is ridiculous.nWhat makes the difference is product design and how you solve the 1000 “easy to deal with” issues is what matters. You are lucky if you get 50% of those half righ

    Log in to Reply
  8. “I am sorry but you are still missing the key point. All of the other connected devices require the patient or a care giver to properly load and program them, which results in mistakes. InteMed is loaded and programmed by your pharmacist and doctor, digita

    Log in to Reply
  9. “No, you just hope to get there ,you don't even have a device at this point.nTo get there you need reasonably good hardware and software leading to either very wide adoption or a contract with an actual chain.nYou also need dedicated hardware that would

    Log in to Reply
  10. “@ Max – There is a slight difference between business and kids in sport. Plus them all the pivoting and marketing answers here just annoyed me.nnBTW, have you noticed the OLO 3D printer on kickstarter? Yet to properly look at it (and figure out if it ac

    Log in to Reply
  11. “Actually I have patent pending IP and I am not sure what your background is but I have a number of patented products that I have successfully taken to market.nnWith regards to what you believe is needed.nYou should check out PillPack.com. Two young guy

    Log in to Reply
  12. “@ InteMed nPillpack delivers and does so with a daily ration in a module. That's compelling , simple and low cost. If you had a smart base and deliver a cheap and dumb 2 weeks ice tray like cartridge, it would be fine, but you have something very differe

    Log in to Reply
  13. “PillPack is great but it is not cheap to produce. It requires very expensive sorting and packaging equipment. The exact same machines could be used for our SmartCarts with very little modification.nnPillPack helps with the organization part of a medicat

    Log in to Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.