CloudPill: Cloud-based IoT Monitoring of Pillbox Usage

V.P. Sampath is a senior member of IEEE and a member of Institution of Engineers India and is working in FPGA Design house. He has published international papers on VLSI and networks -- Sundervel is founder of Advel Technologies

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Medication adherence is a term describing the extent to which patients take medications as prescribed by their healthcare providers. Low medication adherence is detrimental to all major healthcare parties-from patients to healthcare providers to insurance companies-eventually adding millions of dollars to the healthcare deficit. Patients who fail to adhere to a strict medication regiment remain ill longer, become frequent users of the emergency room, and often return to the hospital for issues that could have been prevented by maintaining medication protocols.

Medication non-adherence refers to patients who routinely fail to take their medication as prescribed, and is arguably the largest problem in healthcare. Suboptimal adherence leads to increased costs, lost opportunities and premature deaths.

CloudPill system
Fig. 1: CloudPill system

Wireless and low-power embedded computing technology has enabled the design of a real-time intelligent pillbox to increase medication adherence. Basically, it is a real-world solution using a box with advanced pill detection and wireless connectivity to a cloud infrastructure. The infrastructure aggregates the information and reminds patients to take their medication at appropriate times. It also alerts healthcare providers to any non-adherence.

CloudPill system
Fig. 2: CloudPill system

CloudPill pillbox

Developed by Advel Technologies, Bangalore, the CloudPill electronic pillbox is basically an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that helps people to monitor their medication on a continuous basis. In healthcare industry, being cloud-enabled offers competitive advantages such as doctor-patient engagement, alert by various methods like SMS and calls, and patients’ database. CloudPill device improves on existing systems by providing mobility, frequent and automatic data collection, more detailed information about non-adherence and medication errors, and the familiar interface of a drug-store pillbox. It can be extensively used in elderly care homes, smart homes, hospitals, etc.

Top view of CloudPill
Fig. 3: Top view
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The device monitors the patient and provides capabilities that healthcare providers need to operate as efficiently and as effectively as possible. These include end-to-end solutions including hardware, implementation, hosting, consulting, back-office functions (such as enrollment and billing), and services around electronic medical records, health information exchanges and health insurance exchanges. It supports the entire spectrum of care delivery, including hospitals, health systems, physician practices, health plans and healthcare supply chain organisations.

Bottom view of CloudPill
Fig. 4: Bottom view

CloudPill system

CloudPill counter uses the Internet to connect to an online application that is hosted on a premium dedicated web server. There is no complex network configuration or interfacing required. Pillbox is a single container. During opening and closing, it indicates whether the pills were taken or not by the patient.

Brain of the CloudPill system
Fig. 5: Brain of the system

Users can access their account from any PC, laptop or tablet that has access to the Internet. Once logged in, users can view detailed reports and status of all pill counting transactions performed on the counting scales. Reports show valuable information such as the name and ID of the user that performed the count, name and quantity of the counted drug, as well as date, time and location of the performed transaction. All reports are intuitively organised and sorted in tables for quick viewing, printing and export.

This innovative cloud-based solution is simple-to-use, cost-effective and allows complete customisation of various inputs, viz, doctor’s prescription, mobile app, google calendar and browser. All of the analytics is done on a cloud server with notification engine taking care of e-mail, SMS, call and M2M communication.

 Generation 1 with multiple pouches
Fig. 6: Generation 1 with multiple pouches

The cloud automatically notifies account administrators via e-mail whenever a user causes a miscount or fails to perform Rx verification. Reports can be automatically e-mailed to the administrators daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly.

CloudPill is Wi-Fi-enabled and powered though a battery or mains supply. The developers’ experience with rugged embedded computing proved to be a powerful combination resulting in an elaborate product requirements document. The requirements cover all aspects including aesthetics, use-cases, user interfaces, environmental requirements, functionality, performance, manufacturability, recycling/reuse and regulatory requirements. It has a custom schedule pill consumption, pill organiser (monthly, twice, weekly, daily, day or any custom needs) and reminder system.

Fig. 7: Generation 2 single-pouch

To sum up

The pillbox is part of a system solution that leverages other existing technologies such as the Internet and cellular telephones. When designed and deployed properly, this new healthcare paradigm will have a significant impact on the world today. It will save lives, increase efficiencies and lower overall healthcare costs. Proper execution requires capabilities in several areas including medication adherence, pharmaceutical workflow, patient needs, regulatory standards, manufacturing and supply chain, engineering design, and testing and validation. This system assures the safety of patients by preventing wrong dosages.


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