A new medication delivery service launched in California on Wednesday is using “smart” pill bottles in a bid to remind users to take their medications.
The program, called Round Refill, is the brainchild of Silicon Valley health tech startup Circadian Design. It integrates pharmaceutical delivery, a smartphone app, and most importantly, a novel new bottle that lights up and sends push notifications to the app when you’re supposed to take your pills (and keeps track of how closely you’re hewing to a drug regimen).
The Round Bottle has two main components—a magnetic coin which contains the bulk of the electronics, including LED lights and a circuit board which transmits information to the associated smartphone app via Bluetooth, and a “smart cap” at the top of the bottle which charges the coin. It logs medication use by recording whether or not the bottle’s cap has been taken off on any given day.
Click here to subscribe to our new Brainstorm Health Daily Newsletter.
Users can program the app to remind them to take their medicine within a set window. For instance, you could specify a two-hour window between 7 pm and 9 pm, and the bottle would both send you push notifications through the app and begin to physically glow during that timeframe (as demonstrated below).
Once it’s time for a refill, you would hold on to the coin and receive the next smart bottle with your pills in the mail.
Circadian Design CEO and co-founder Matt Blum, a former Mac engineer at Apple (AAPL), reunited with his Stanford University classmates Matt Crowley (also an Apple alum) and Lauren Meleney (previously at San Francisco product design consultancy firm PCH Lime Lab) and formed the new company to tackle a problem he’s personally familiar with.
“I was having trouble taking twice-daily medications for mild Crohn’s disease,” Blum told Fortune in an interview. “Not only remembering to take it every day, but what I was supposed to take because the dose would alternate, and then after the fact forgetting if I’d taken it on any given day. I realized that was causing me a lot of stress during a very busy time.”
As Blum points out, research from the National Center for Health Statistics and New England Journal of Medicine finds that more than half of the 160 million Americans prescribed one or more drugs either take them incorrectly or don’t take them at all. That level of non-adherence causes as much as $290 billion in avoidable healthcare spending.
A number of new digital pharmacy delivery and automatic refill services have been popping up lately, some of which also track medication usage. But Blum says that Round Refill stands apart by using a multi-pronged approach to telling users it’s time to take their medicine, forgoing a simple alarm that may ring at an inconvenient time for more accommodative reminders.
The Round Refill program for prescription drugs will only be operating in California for now (although its vitamin-focused version is open nationwide). But the company hopes to soon expand by striking deals with more regional pharmacy partners, including selling the smart bottle tech to other independent pharmacy delivery services throughout the country.