Vitality’s Internet-Connected GlowCap Targets Behavior Change to Remind You to Stay on Meds

4/6/10Follow @xconomy

Some people feel guilty when evading their doctor’s recommendations; others need a logical reason to follow an instruction. Cambridge, MA-based Vitality tries to factor in these differences in motivations and psychological makeup to spur patients toward a common goal: to make sure they take their medications as prescribed.

On its most basic level, Vitality’s GlowCap system functions to remind users of when they’re forgetting their prescriptions. It involves an Internet-connected pill cap that also sends signals to a device that resembles a nightlight. When a deadline is missed, the system will blink and sound an alarm, which gets louder as time goes by. If the medication is still not taken, GlowCaps generate an automated phone call to the user to remind them to take a pill and ask them why they’ve forgotten it so far.

“We have a device that notices right in the moment that someone is making a decision and intervenes right away,” says founder and CEO David Rose, who previously founded and ran Ambient Devices, a Cambridge-based company that pioneered the use of household devices like clocks to convey information to people, on everything from the stock market to the weather.

The answers culled in these phone calls, in addition to initial interview questions with the user, help the Vitality system create a profile and determine the forces that motivate them, such as authority, social support, or rewards. Rose says there are many reasons beyond forgetfulness that users skip meds, such as concerns of cost, side effects, or lack of education on the effects of their disease. The GlowCaps system aims to both prevent those factors from becoming hindrances, and implement services that encourage users to take their drugs in the future, based on their individual psychological profiles.

For example, if the co-pay costs of a prescription cause a patient to skip meds, the system could help implement financial incentives for users who take their prescription when they’re supposed to. For patients motivated by authority figures, the system can help coordinate regular reports with their doctors, documenting their prescription adherence. GlowCaps helps coordinate refills with a patient’s pharmacy, too.

It also offers the capability to e-mail your adherence rate to a selected friend or family member, if you’re someone who is spurred by social support. Many patients taking medications to treat diseases that don’t cause immediate discomfort, such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or high cholesterol, are more inclined to skip pills. Vitality can target this user with regular, interactive, educational e-mails on the long-term effects of their disease.

“Just like an exquisite friend or boyfriend, we try to make a system that learns to adapt over time with what happens to work for you,” Rose says.

Wade wrote about the Vitality when the company’s Ethernet-connected device hit Amazon.com in August, selling for $99 each directly consumers, skewed toward baby boomers who need a way to keep their aging parents on track with taking medication. But Rose has since evolved his business to market and test-drive the product alongside bigger organizations. And Vitality has a new version of the GlowCap device, which uses a cellular network to connect to the Internet, and will be used in future distribution programs.

Later this month the company will … Next Page »

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  • http://www.rezmelts.com/ Luany

    Oh wow, I’m gonna have to glowcap other aspects of my life.
    Not that multivitamins are as crucial as prescription meds, but I can apply it to that.

  • http://www.alterspark.com Brian Cugeman

    This seems like a great invention to help remind people to stick with their medication schedules. And it seems to be drawing on a number of good behavioural influence approaches, such as using reminders and social pressure. However, I imagine many people would be dealing with multiple medications, potentially on different schedules, which may complicate many applications.