It can be challenging for some people to remember to take medication on time, especially when managing multiple doses. If they do forget, it can lead to minor problems, but it can also be the difference between life and death.
A student from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology named Archishma Marrapu developed a low-cost automated pill-tracking device to remind patients to take their medications. She presented her invention, Project Pill Tracker, at this year’s IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, where she received the IEEE Excellence Award.
Marrapu came up with the idea after witnessing her grandfather struggling to remember to take medications at specific times each day. She committed to using her technical skills to create a device to help her grandfather and millions of others manage their pills effectively.
The smart invention involves 3D-printed prescription bottles with ultrasonic sensors to keep track of the dispensed pills. It has an accompanying mobile app programmed with features such as AI pattern analysis to help monitor skipped doses and misuse. It also includes ChatGPT to provide useful information to users, like the methods of mitigating side effects.
By switching to Marrapu’s tracking device from traditional prescription bottles, pharmaceutical companies can improve their medication adherence and help prevent intensified medical conditions. The number of deaths due to misusing or forgetting to take prescribed drugs can also be reduced.
Upon conducting market research, Marrapu discovered that similar devices are costly. Some charge expensive monthly subscription plans up to $100, which many people cannot access. The young scientist set out to develop an affordable and functional biomedical device.
The smart pill bottle has also caught the attention of major pharmaceutical companies. The device impressed executives at Digital Innovation Lab from the large U.S. pharmacy chain CVS. Together they are collaborating to ensure that the next version of the tool is made more convenient and inclusive.
At first glance, it is easy to conclude that people forget to take medication due to memory capacity or distraction. In a landmark study from North Carolina State University, researchers discovered that changes in daily behavior can have a crucial impact on remembering to take medications.
Research lead author Dr. Shevaun Neupert reported that the differences in what a person does each day affect their ability to remember to take medication. The study also found that these changes in daily behavior can affect different age groups in various ways.
The NC research team evaluated study participants who were on prescribed daily pills. These participants were grouped into younger adults between 18 and 20 and older adults between 60 and 89. For both age groups, participants were more likely to remember taking their medications on days when they performed better on cognition tests.
According to Neupert, although cognition is an important element in remembering medications, a person’s daily activities that make them busy are also important factors. For instance, young people are better at remembering to take their medication when they are more active than usual, while older adults do it better when they are less busy.