It’s Time for Smart Medicine

Even Pill Bottles Are Getting Connected

In this continuously connected world, of course pill bottles should have built-in connectivity.

Last week, a start-up called Circadian Design, from San Francisco, announced pre-orders for a new smart pill bottle called Round, which reminds users to take their medication. It also automatically orders refills from the pharmacy.

A service created by the company ties together the pill bottle, a Bluetooth-enabled cap called Smart Coin, the firm’s pharmaceutical refill and delivery service, and a smartphone app that acts as the main interface for the user. The bottle lights up and also pushes a notification to the smartphone to remind patients to take their medication. By tracking each time the lid is opened, the app can keep inventory and contact the pharmacy when it’s time for a refill. Users can track the history and performance of the service via the app.

Circadian Design CEO and co-founder Matt Blum highlighted the need for a near-foolproof method of supporting people’s medicinal intake. The company also pointed to the vast potential of the market. According to the US National Center for Health Statistics, more than 160 million people in the US are on at least one prescription. But research published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates more than half of them don’t follow their doctor’s instructions and take their medication incorrectly or skip it entirely, thus putting a strain on the healthcare system. This is not a US-only problem. In the UK, the National Health Service currently estimates that as much as £300 million is wasted every year on unused or partially used medication.

The bottle’s Smart Coin cap includes LED lights and a circuit board that transmits information to the smartphone app via Bluetooth. Subscribers to the service reuse the cap but receive a new bottle for each refill. The bottle comes loaded with the medication and a fresh battery so when one bottle runs out, users simply load the Smart Coin into the new one that was delivered.

CCS Insight believes that such an innovation will be of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare providers looking for cost-effective ways to passively monitor their patients, particularly those that self-administer their care based on provided directions. The Round bottle could potentially save lives and provide the healthcare industry with information on user behaviour. This echoes CCS Insight’s prediction that pharmaceutical companies will become the largest vertical market for wearables by 2020 as these devices become an indispensable part of medical prescriptions (see CCS Insight Predictions for 2016 and Beyond).

Circadian Design is looking to provide a service, using hardware to generate recurring service revenue. It’s an archetypal digital business model applied to an established industry. The company is just one of a growing number of businesses venturing into the world of on-demand mobile healthcare. Its goal is to use technology to help people follow doctors’ orders and ultimately live healthier lives.

However, in many countries the healthcare system is highly bureaucratic and slow moving. It will be a very large and long task to get new systems like Circadian Design’s Round bottle integrated into the large number of doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals.

Nonetheless, as smartphone penetration reaches saturation levels in most developed countries and people become completely comfortable using and trusting smartphone apps and adjacent services, the demand for mobile healthcare services is certain to rise. Circadian Design has brought the Internet of things to something as mundane as a plastic pill bottle. Good medicine is certainly worthy of a good connection.