Millions of Americans have to take medication daily, but a lot of them forget to do so — a 2009 study conducted by the New England Healthcare Institute found that medical nonadherence costs the US as much as $290 billion per year. Massachusetts-based company PillPack wants to change that by redesigning the typical pharmacy experience. Currently serving 31 states, the company recently raised $4 million in funding to expand its services which ship two weeks worth of medications to patients in individual day packs that can be torn off and taken anywhere.
The idea is to try to take the hassle out of a few major parts of the pharmacy experience. PillPack coordinates prescriptions, refills, and claims to guarantee shipping of all medications on time, every time. Patients pay a $20 fee in addition to prescription co-pays for a box to arrive at their doorsteps containing all of a their medications for two weeks, measured out into day packs that can be ripped off from a roll one at a time. Each individual pack is labeled with the date, time, and list of pills inside. A medication list that explains what each pill is and how it should be taken is also included in the box, along with a recyclable dispenser and any other medications that cannot be placed into the pack, like liquids and inhalants.
The design language wants to change the idea of what a pharmacy is and could be
But PillPack's ambitions go beyond perforated medicine packets. The design of the system, while channelling minimalist design, is also attempting to rethink the entire pharmacy experience. Atlas Venture partner Fred Destin told The Wall Street Journal that he thinks the company could become "the most recognized name in pharmacy with a brand and reputation that matches that of Apple." That's a bold statement, but — like Apple — it's clear that product design plays a big role in what PillPack's trying to do. Medical nonadherence goes far beyond people forgetting to take pills — according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, some chronically ill patients think that they don't need the medication prescribed to them, so they opt not to take it. Other patients feel their pride take a hit when a doctor prescribes a pill regimen for the rest of their lives, leading to them receive medication and then simply not use it.
PillPack currently addresses some accessibility, portability, and privacy issues surrounding medicine, but in order for the company to really change the way pharmacies work, it needs to be licensed in all 50 states and bring this system everywhere. It also needs to focus on how patients interact with the system, specifically in mobile apps and reminders. Other companies are based on this idea alone: Medisafe Project makes a mobile app that reminds patients when to take their medication, and AdhereTech makes a smart pill bottle that knows when a patient took, or missed, a dosage of medication. PillPack has a mobile interface that informs patients about changes in prescriptions and shipping, but it doesn't seem to remind patients when to take their pills yet. It's got a long way to go, but PillPack could be a solution that keeps patients with long-term medicine needs healthy, while also providing solace in a personalized packet.