Pharmaceuticals Move into Internet of Medical Things

Josh Stein, Cofounder & CEO, AdhereTech

Josh Stein, Cofounder & CEO, AdhereTech

If you were to make an informal list of the most revolutionary, transformative, and successful companies of the past decade, which ones would you name? Chances are, you’d select powerhouse tech firms like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. Maybe you’d also include some companies, like Uber or Airbnb and there are hundreds of other firms that could be on this hypothetical list as well. But instead of debating those points, let’s focus on the similarities of the aforementioned companies.

"Smart medical devices must be incredibly easy for patients to use in order to facilitate mass adoption"

The companies are technology based. They have designed and manufactured products that many people use almost every day. They have played a huge role in transforming industries like advertising, communication, commerce, entertainment, and travel. If we boil it down altogether, we eventually see an overarching commonality: they have all created wonderful products and these products consistently improve.
More importantly, they are able to evolve in the right direction because these firms have an immense amount of data about how people use their products. These companies know how their user interacts with their site or device, the duration of product usage, when the user uses their product, and why the user stops using their product.

Now, let’s compare this level of insight to the information that’s available for pharmaceutical companies to leverage. Pharma spends billions developing new drugs–and billions more marketing them once they’re approved. Yet pharmaceutical companies don’t have detailed or accurate insights into how patients use their drugs, when patients use their drugs, and why patients stop using their drugs. Yet if pharma works towards relevant data collection and analysis, then new market opportunities would gradually open for them.

With smart medical devices like AdhereTech’s smart pill bottle, pharma companies are beginning to collect–and leverage–the potential information concerning the consumer’s behavior. In fact, AdhereTech’s smart pill bottles have been used by top healthcare companies and pharmaceutical firms since 2013. Our solution is currently distributed from hospital pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies, and clinical trial sites. AdhereTech has active customer engagements with a number of top healthcare firms, including three top-15 pharmaceutical companies (confidential), two top-20 national pharmacies (confidential), The Mount Sinai, health systems Partners HealthCare, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, The Dara Farber Cancer Institute and more.

Here is how our solution works: AdhereTech smart pill bottles automatically can measure if patients have taken their medication, and data is automatically sent from the bottles to our servers, where it is analyzed in real-time. If a dose is missed, AdhereTech reminds the patient and/or caregiver via a series of customizable features, such as automated phone calls or text messages-as well as on-bottle lights and chimes. On average, AdhereTech increases adherence by over 20 percent and duration by over 25 percent.

As AdhereTech continues to collect this newly gathered crucial data, we develop novel insights into the drivers of non-adherence–and the solutions that work for specific types of patients. These inputs are used to create innovative interventions and personalization algorithms. In fact, we consider ourselves a hardware-enabled data and software company.

AdhereTech is part of "The Internet of Things" (IoT), which describes the emergence of Internet-connected devices to improve the lives of users. Concerning healthcare, there are infinite ways in which IoT tools can be used to improve patient care-and it’s happening sooner than you might think. In the past few years, we've seen the emergence of connected medical devices such as smart heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers, asthma inhalers, thermometers and pill bottles. Let's call this "The Internet of Medical Things" (IoMT).
Last year I gave a TEDMED Talk at the TEDMED conference about this topic. My main point is that smart medical devices must be incredibly easy for patients to use in order to facilitate mass adoption. This is a simple and important notion, yet it is too often ignored within the IoMT.
At AdhereTech, this idea has guided every design and user experience feature that we have built into our smart pill bottles. We have even distilled this philosophy into three design principles, which we refer to each day:

1. The device must work the moment the patient gets it, with no setup, no assembly, no downloads and no syncing required.
2. The device should be used in the exact same way as the regular non-connected version of the device, so it's simple for the user.
3. The battery in the device should last very long—ideally multiple months— without needing to be recharged.

In my TEDMED Talk, I elaborate on how we have accomplished these feats. Next time you use any smart connected device, please think about its required setup, ease-of-use and battery life. Then consider about how much better the product would be if even one of these factors were improved.
The IoT will soon become as ubiquitous as the Internet itself, and the IoMT has the potential to transform the way in which healthcare is delivered. Patients will be the group that ultimately decides which devices will be adopted, so we must always remember to design these tools for patients above all else.

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