Experimental electronic pill bottle caps prompted up to 99 percent of the participants of a study to stay on their medication schedules, says the Center for Connected Health. The pill bottle covers send wireless signals that activate a glowing light, a tune, automated calls, text messages or e-mails to notify patients that it's time to take their medication.
Having trouble remembering to take your pills? According to preliminary
results from a study by the Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners
HealthCare, wireless electronic pill bottle caps may be able to help.
The telehealth provider announced the results of a study on June 23 that
showed a 27 percent increase in medication schedule adherence for those who
used a Vitality
GlowCap wireless pill bottle cover compared with those in a control group
of people not using the electronic cap.
"The purpose of the study is twofold: to assist health care providers
in finding strategies that help patients become more adherent to their medications
and care plans, and to study the impact of Vitality GlowCaps and services on
adherence rates," David Rose, CEO of
Vitality, told eWEEK.
"GlowCaps are designed especially for managing chronic diseases like
high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and depression where daily
medications are critical for long-term health," Rose said.
The GlowCap has an embedded computer chip that communicates with a
cellular-connected nightlight, which sends the information to Vitality over
AT&T's 2G network. The nightlight's low-frequency RF (radio frequency) is
activated when the unit is plugged into the wall. Patients can be notified via
a glowing light, a tune, automated calls, text messages or e-mails. The
reminders can be repeated for up to four doses a day.
Patients suffering from hypertension participated in six-month trials that
began in August 2009. The 139 participants taking anti-hypertensive medication
were grouped into three categories: a control group that did without the cap
and adhered to their medication schedule 71 percent of the time, an
intervention group that received reminders from the device and maintained an
adherence rate of 98 percent, and an intervention-plusgroup that had an
adherence rate of 99 percent and received these notifications along with a
financial reward of up to $90 if they adhered to their medication schedule at
least 80 percent of the time.
"The difference between achieving that 71 percent and 98 percent means
fewer health care costs, healthier people and they'll spend less of society's
money, whether that will be the employer's money or the government's money,"
Joseph Kvedar, M.D., director of the Center for Connected Health, told eWEEK.
"The fact that we can get adherence to 98 percent is very exciting."
Rose noted that even a small increase in adherence using the technology can
make a difference. "Pharmaceutical companies and health care providers
struggle to increase adherence by just few a percentage points," Rose
said. "The 27 percent increase in medication adherence for patients using
GlowCaps is a very positive indication that Internet-connected medication
packaging and feedback services can increase adherence in the field and reduce
some of the costs for health care providers associated with poor
Based on data the GlowCap sends to Vitality about the patient's pill
schedule adherence, progress reports are e-mailed to the patient, family member
or primary care physician, or a combination. Patients can also choose to share
their results on social networks.
The GlowCap has one possible flaw for biotechnology to solve: It only knows
if you open the bottle, not whether you take the pills. Nevertheless, the
results of this study show promise for adherence to medication schedules.
"As doctors we have this foolish notion that if we tell you to do
something, you're going to do it," Kvedar said. "Just because you
write the script doesn't mean the behavior follows."
The Center for Connected Health said it expects final analysis of the study
to be available in fall 2010.
Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.