Currently there are a number of hardware-based solutions in the market that aim to help the patient take the right medication at the right time. The conventional options of boxes, organizers, dispensers, watches etc have been there for the longest time. The last few years have seen devices get a bit smarter with phone, internet, cellular connectivity and some built-in decision support (alerts, reminders) . See Philips’ ManageMyPills service, MedMinder, Glowcaps, for example.

Seems like the new crop of ‘medication management services’ are purely software applications using the increasingly-ubiquitous mobile phone as the hardware companion. The space is getting crowded: PillBoxApp, PillBoxer, RememberItNow, ZumeLife, PharmaSurveyor, MedWatcher and Jitterbug. PillPhone joins the lineup with a few mildly notable differences.

Pillphone is made by Vocel, a mobile messaging platform developer. It’s based on ‘The Pill Book‘: consumer guide to the most prescribed drugs in america. The book has been around for decades; now in it’s 14th edition. The app is available on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon networks and the company claims it can work with most handsets and costs around $4/month. The features are pretty standard: visual/audible alerts and reminders, a mobile MAR, visual identification (i.e pill pictures), and side-effects information. Bit surprisingly, they have managed to get an FDA 510(k) clearance, handful of patents and some big investors.

No doubt that mobile computing platforms (not just phones, maybe dedicated health devices in future) are going to play a crucial role in providing medication adherence services of tomorrow. One of the key gaps though, is in integrating such personal MARs data with institutional EHRs. If we continue to be unable to reliably involve patients in the medication reconciliation process, then such mobile applications are just another isolated island of data – incapable of making the overall healthcare system more efficient. See Joint Commission‘s take on this topic here. Lets hope that in future everyone who checks into ER can hand over their detailed medication history on a dumb (or smart) phone to the staff and providers can use that information right away.