Sometimes it’s the really small things that make a huge difference to a person’s health. Skipping dosages of prescription medication, for example, has been linked to an array of negative effects.

In these cases, mere grams of prevention can avert pounds and billions of dollars worth of cure.

The Prescription Problem

About half of us are guilty of not taking medication correctly, according to figures shared by the CDC. This is a serious issue, it pointed out because: “non-adherence is associated with higher rates of hospital admissions, suboptimal health outcomes, increased morbidity and mortality, and increased health care costs.”

Those costs amount to “$528.4 billion, equivalent to 16% of total US health care expenditures in 2016.” That’s a huge expense growing out failing to follow the doctor’s orders for the prescription. While some fail to fill them altogether, the larger number — over 40%, reports the CDC — admit they just don’t remember to take it.

Solutions in a Cartridge, Bottle, Robot or Patch

Now It is possible to monitor and reinforce adherence to prescriptions through a number of different Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled solutions. While they all monitor adherence, some also send out reminders to take the pills as scheduled. (Read The Impact Internet of Things (IoT) is Having on Different Industries.)

1. The connected cartridge solution

The cartridge featured in the video below is from Karie.

The Karie cartridge organizes medication for up to 45 days into prepared single dosage bags put together by the pharmacist. The cartridge is then connected to the Karie device that will alert them when it’s time to take a dose.

The person then gets the dosage bag out of the device so it can register that the medication was taken on schedule (assuming the patient follows through on swallowing the proper dosage.)

Karie is connected over a cellular network with wifi built-in as a backup in case there is no cellular service. That’s what enables it to send out an alert to a person responsible for the patient in case help is needed when a dosage is missed.

Other companies have come up with the same basic concept with some variations on the design. Among them is Wisepill, which now offers three different models of smart pill dispensers that synchronize with the Wisepill Cloud service.

2. Smart bottle caps

The Smart Med Reminder system from Concordance Health Solutions relies on IoT to make a smart cap for the bottle of the medication that works with a mobile app and a cloud-based service to both monitor when the pill is taken and remind patients to take it when they should.

If the patient gives permission, the system can also share the notification with someone in the family, a caregiver or the pharmacist.

You can see how the cap signals work in the video below.

Another version of a smart bottle is made by AdhereTech and is featured in the video below.

The pill cap gets a blue glow when it’s time to take a dose. If the patient failed to take it on time, it will glow red and send out some form of message via text, phone or email.

The type of message delivered depends on what the analytics at AdhereTech determine what the situation warrants. It also analyzes the patients responses.

Pharmacists are looped in, too, with the possibility of getting real-time reports about which patients they should reach out to as some may need timely support — and follow up with them directly to provide timely care. (Read Internet of Things (IoT) and Real-Time Analytics - A Marriage Made in Heaven.)

As a result of implementing this system a few years back, AdhereTech can boast of having “amassed the world’s largest dataset of medication adherence behavior from actual patients.”

3. Your friendly robot reminder

Emanuele Musini, the CEO and co-founder of Pillo explained the thinking behind the design and capabilities built into it: “We believe that personalized and engaging technology is key to achieving behavior change and empowering users by promoting safer independence.”

Pillo, which can hold a fair number of pills inside its body is billed not as something but someone. In fact, the narrator of the video above refers to the device as “he” rather than it.

Pillo doesn’t just remind people to take their medication, which it can track, but operates as a kind of center of health communication that speaks directly to the person and enables video chats with doctors.

4. Patches that work with ingestibles

While all the solutions featured above are intended to track a patient's adherence, they respond only to taking the pills out of their containers. They cannot offer assurance that the pills were actually ingested.

As Ruth May does with her quinine pills in The Poisonwood Bible, it’s possible to hide the pill rather than swallow it. The only way to have assurance of that is with something that detect what was ingested, and Proteus Discover did just that. (Read Warp Speed to Biotech Utopia: 5 Cool Medical Advancements.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug with a digital ingestion tracking system for the first time in 2017. That was for a drug used in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, as well as depression.

But Proteus believes that the sensors can be useful for a host of other drugs that require regular compliance to work properly.

Patients now have a choice of IoT solutions to find the one that best fits their needs for prescription adherence. (Read Job Role: IoT Solutions Architect.)

Hopefully, that will result in better numbers about patient health from the CDC in the future.