HealthBeacon’s prescription for adherence
An elderly patient comes home from a doctor visit with a new set of prescriptions to manage her high blood pressure. The new meds are added to her already crowded daily regimen, but the first week is fine, in part because the patient has family members in town who help her adjust to the new medications.
But then the family leaves, and the patient struggles to remember the correct dose of her medication and when to take it. Not long after, she suffers a mild stroke and is rushed to the hospital.
The scenario may be a fictitious one, but it’s also one that’s a real possibility when patients fail to take their medications as prescribed. One study found that people with high blood pressure who don’t take their medications when they should have a higher risk of stroke — and of dying from it — than those who adhere to their prescription schedule.
In fact, medication noncompliance has huge implications on not only people’s health, but on health care and the costs associated with it. It’s a growing challenge, but one that a new wave of innovators and entrepreneurs are looking to get a handle on.
“Despite the remarkable advances in medications, patients still are struggling to take their medications on time and as needed,” said Jim Joyce, CEO and co-founder of HealthBeacon, a medical technology company based in Dublin, Ireland, that’s working to improve medication compliance. “It’s a huge problem in the healthcare industry and in people’s lives, but it’s one that technology and innovation is helping us get our arms around.”
Innovation in action
Joyce had spent 10 years helping patients with chronic medical conditions when he and co-founder Kieran Daly came up with the idea for HealthBeacon’s main technology, which helps address medication compliance issues. The HealthBeacon device is a smart sharps bin for patients who self-inject medications at home. It is digitally connected and programmed with personal medication schedules, and uses customized reminders to help patients stay on track.
Not only does the technology help improve patient outcomes, but also it is on track to help lower clinical costs and make improvements in how pharmaceutical costs and resources are directed.
“We saw a real need for patients to benefit from technology when it comes to medication management,” Joyce said. “But these technological innovations go far beyond that and will help disrupt the entire industry.”
HealthBeacon has already made strides in the industry and has been growing rapidly. The company raised 1 million euros in a 2016 seed round and, with the backing of Enterprise Ireland, a government agency that helps Irish companies expand into global markets, opened an office in Boston earlier in 2017.
HealthBeacon is not alone in taking on medication compliance. With the rise of the smartphone, countless apps have come about that help patients adhere to regular medication schedules. Such companies as Medication Management Systems offer comprehensive, technology-backed services that ensure patients are taking their prescriptions when they should, while other firms offer automated reminders, counseling lines and other tools to keep people on track.
Such companies as Dose Guardian take a more analog approach with advanced pill-box options, which include at-home packaging systems that ensure patients get the right dose at the right time.
“I think there’s a lot of room in the industry to address the challenges of medication compliance,” Joyce said. “In the end, the goal is largely the same: to eliminate the issue and, in the process, help more people live healthier, longer lives.”
Donal Cummings is the vice president of digital health and life sciences at Enterprise Ireland.