Today marks the launch of Polish company dr Poket’s PillBox Kickstarter campaign. The PillBox is a smart medication dispenser that aims to make prescription adherence foolproof for individuals, households, or centers while eliminating the risks associated with coordinating multiple medications simultaneously. The device consists of a central controller unit, any number of modular dispensing components, and a companion web or mobile application for managing prescriptions.
A member of the Medgadget team recently had an opportunity to speak with Marcin Michalak, CEO and co-founder of dr Poket, about the PillBox technology and what’s in store for their device:
Zach Kaufman, Medgadget: How does the PillBox set itself apart from other “smart” medication dispensers?
Marcin Michalak, dr Poket: Available hardware solutions are expensive and difficult to use. Our product has all of their functionalities with additional upgrades. It is synchronized in real-time with our platform [dr Poket], and is accessible for the physically challenged.
Most of the available pillboxes are nothing more than containers for meds. Users need to manually put every med in a designated container. Our device only needs to be filled with selected meds from the top of a module. The mechanism will then automatically dispense the right dosage at the right time. Additionally, our device allows appointed doctors to edit treatment dosages and schedules remotely. It is just a matter of changing the schedule via the web browser or mobile device interface, and patients receive information about any updates in the therapy without unnecessary direct physician involvement. Increasing, decreasing, and even pausing or resuming the treatment dosage is possible.
The PillBox is an attractively-designed, technologically-advanced mechanism for dispensing medications, integrated with our platform and external existing systems and services. To simplify access to key information about the use of drugs, the dr Poket companion app is equipped with a quick barcode scanner. This allows patients to quickly find out if particular medications can be taken with alcohol and how they can affect pregnancy or breastfeeding. The app also provides information about operating heavy machinery (such as a motor vehicle) during treatment. Finally, the platform automatically checks to ensure that multiple prescribed drugs do not interact harmfully with each other.
Medgadget: You’ve described the PillBox as a “modular” system — could you clarify exactly what that means and what benefit it might have for patients?
Mr. Michalak: The PillBox can work as an integrated system or separately as single components. The medical needs of families are dynamically changing: families grow, members age and experience new health challenges, and even trivial things like seasonal diseases disturb the pulse of life. Our device’s modular structure allows users to bring components to a pharmacy, doctor, or caregiver in order to adjust medication delivery to an individual patient’s evolving needs or just to refill the RX. Everyone can make use of the platform: singles, small or big families, retirement homes, and even hospitals.
How can we address such different needs with one product? That’s why users can always scale their Pillbox. As user’s needs grow, so does the Pillbox simply by adding an additional module. The combination of multiple modules gives the ability to deliver multiple types of meds. It allows the device to be used in medical facilities and family homes. In case of expanding it is possible to connect up to 128 components to one central unit! Modularity also provides us with an opportunity to make our products better and adjust them to an ever-evolving medical market, without forcing users to abandon already customized Pillbox.
Medgadget: Can you expand upon the accessibility aspects of the device? How exactly do vision- or hearing-impaired users interact with the device?
Mr. Michalak: During prototyping, we were mainly focused on the needs of the physically challenged, which distinguishes our product from the ones currently on the market. We want to help people make full recoveries and take better care of their health in the easiest way possible. We provided adjusted solutions to help them manage their meds.
Our solution’s interface was designed to match the needs of the elderly, physically-challenged, partially-sighted, hearing-impaired, and deaf. The PillBox has a large screen, Braille indicators, allows users to regulate the volume of the powerful auditory alarm, and has light indicators to make taking meds simpler.
A point of emphasis in the prototyping stage was to help the blind as well — to eliminate the risk of taking the wrong pill, a patient may move his or her finger through a special tactile edge that indicates the correct container. There is virtually no possibility of taking the wrong medication, the wrong dosage, or of triggering a harmful interaction, because the device will dispense only the intended amounts of scheduled medications. The dr Poket companion app is also optimized for the elderly and vision-impaired.
Medgadget: What still needs to be done to get from your current prototype to a production device?
Mr. Michalak: The first step is to finalize the electronic components, which means redesigning PCBs and replacing all of the through-hole-mounted parts to their surface-mounted analogs. Then, we’ll fine-tune the software side of the PillBox to ensure it’s 100% reliable. Next, we will design forms for the prototype injection molding and prepare shells that are ready to fill with the electronic and mechanical components. At that point, the prototypes will be fully functional and ready for some final tests.
After passing our internal tests, we will need to receive several certificates as a new electronic device (e.g., FCC, CE, RoHS). On the software side, our platform is already HIPAA compliant. Lastly, we’ll move from prototype molding to steel injection molds and encase our tested electronic and mechanical components in a new casing. Then everything will be set to package and send production devices to our earliest campaign backers!
Medgadget: What is your timeline for release, as well as any notable benchmarks along the way?
Mr. Michalak: The shipment date for our first Kickstarter backers is scheduled for July 2016. A few months prior, we will test the device in Polish clinics, retirement homes, and private homes to ensure that it is working as anticipated in each environment. Shortly after the initial product release, we will be focusing on creating the distribution chain to US and European markets.
Company page: dr Poket…
PillBox crowdfunding campaign: Kickstarter…