By Nancy Kennedy
You might be surprised to learn that, according to the World Health Organization, one of the leading causes of death in the world is not a disease, but a behavior relating to the treatment of disease: medication non-adherence. Medication non-adherence means failing to take prescribed medications as directed by the physician, due to misunderstanding, forgetfulness, confusion or simply being too busy or distracted to consistently adhere to the regimen. Keeping track of one’s medication regimen can be a challenge for anyone, from busy professionals to the elderly, and the more medications one takes, the more complicated this can become.
Physicians prescribe medications with very specific instructions - for the type of medication, the dose, the method of administration and the frequency of administration. Additional instructions, such as whether to take with food or not, can be of great significance in achieving the best outcome from the medication.
Whether one has been prescribed a short-term antibiotic to treat an infection or a lifelong regimen of multiple drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, heart disease, mental illness, cancer or other conditions, taking the medication exactly as directed is critically important to obtaining the full health benefit. The consequences of failing to take medications appropriately are numerous and costly, and can even be a matter of life and death.
Wayne Irving, co-founder and chief executive officer of Iconosys, Inc., a leading Smartphone application developer, fully understands the gravity of adhering to a prescribed medication regimen, and he was determined to develop a solution. His motivation came from his personal life: Irving witnessed his wife’s efforts to keep track of a complex medication schedule to manage an autoimmune disease. “My wife takes medication that requires frequent adjustments in dosage, and there is no room for error,” he explains. “She’s a busy, active mother of four, and she needed reminders and a way to keep track of her meds. At first, we tried using Google calendar, but there were problems. I wanted a more structured, precise and dynamic way to remind her as well as a way for me to monitor her medications, to support and help her.”
Irving developed a solution: an app called the Digital Pillbox, which just came on the market in February. The Digital Pillbox is much more than an electronic reminder gadget – it has multiple functions that are all intended to assure the patient’s safety by eliminating the risk of errors or missed doses and enabling caregivers, healthcare professionals and loved ones to monitor the patient’s compliance. The Digital Pillbox maintains the person’s medication schedule and utilizes an alarm notification system that alerts the user that it is time to take a dose of a medication, vitamin, or supplement. It even shows them a color photograph of the correct pill, since so many pills are similar in appearance. The Digital Pillbox records the dosage taken, keeps a running digital log, and, if desired, notifies a care provider by text or email of medications taken. An electronic spreadsheet is maintained that can be electronically shared with the physician or other caregivers as part of ongoing management of the person’s care.
Irving says that even those who are not technology-savvy can use the Digital Pillbox. “I bought my own grandmother an inexpensive Android, just for this purpose, and installed the Digital Pillbox app. She keeps it on her kitchen counter. When the alarm goes off, it tells her what to take, how many and shows her a picture of the pill. The alarm is insistent – you have to respond. Once she takes her pills, she hits “Done” and I get an email telling me that she took her medication. It couldn’t be easier.”
Irving has been developing software since his senior year in college. He began Iconosys three years ago and says it is a small business with big ideas. “We are a 30-employee company and we are here for the cause; our cause is lifesaving, life-enhancing Smartphone and tablet applications that are practical, that solve problems for people. Iconosys creates technologies and technology driven products for clients in order to improve their safety and well-being and improve their quality of life.”
The Digital Pillbox is an ingenious use of technology that delivers solutions, meets numerous needs, and provides peace of mind for patients and caregivers. To Irving, it is an element of a larger movement, to improve patient education and reduce the problems associated with medication non-adherence. “This is useful for so many people: care providers for HIV/AIDS patients, people with aging parents, mothers whose kids have asthma or diabetes, parents of special needs infants, and many others. We feel that we are scratching the surface and that many additional versions can be developed.”
The app easily installs on a Smartphone, tablet or other mobile device and can readily communicate with other devices through text or email messages. The Digital Pillbox costs just $9.99 and is available from Amazon.com or fromwww.iconosys.com.
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