RecallPill, the device that helps elderly people to manage their medication properly

Natalia Macho Quesada & Pablo M. De Rojas Malpartida

Engineering is, and should be, a tool that helps to improve people’s lives by easing most of their tasks. Therefore, every research project or invention must be aimed at enhancing the well-being of society. In this way, RecallPill is born with the aim to improve the life and health of elderly people who need assistance to keep correctly taking their medication.

Surely you are familiar with the eternal issues many elderly people (and sometimes not so elderly) have when it comes to take their daily medication. Sometimes, it is common for them to forget which pills they have to take, how many of them, or even which day they have to take them; and thus this procedure can become quite overwhelming for them. Thankfully, there are different options that can minimise the impact this situation can have on their lives, as well as they might help them to keep everything better organised.

Figure 1. Example of the anxiety some people might experience when they need to control their pill intake. Photo credit: Pxfuel.

Until now, the common practice to follow was to use regular pill boxes, which would help these people to have their pills better organised. Nevertheless, this arrangement does not solve other issues: they may forget where they left them or even forget to replenish the boxes with the pills! To tackle this issue, we came up with a new idea, RecallPill, hoping that it could be helpful to everyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

What we propose is to use a programmable pill box linked to an electronic bracelet. In practice, how would this idea work? First, this pill box has as many compartments as different pills someone needs to take. Once the pills are placed in the box, we can program it so that each compartment lights up in a different colour: green would signal that is time to take the pill and red that there are no pills and the compartment needs to be refilled. In addition, compartments that are not being used or do not need to be opened would be locked as long as they are not lit up. In other words, it will not be possible to open more than one compartment at a time to prevent mix-ups. To make sure the correct dosage is being taken, a screen will show how many pills are needed to take every time a “green” compartment is opened. In case the pill box is misplaced or forgotten, it can emit a sound so it can be easily found. At the same time, as an additional warning, the aforementioned bracelet can vibrate and light up in the same colour as the pill box. The most exciting part about the pill box is that it can be controlled via a phone app that relatives might want to check so they are sure the pills are taken correctly. Specifically, RecallPill has been designed to help elderly people and those who are not used to new technologies. Because of that, it is easier if the notification that reminds someone to take the pill is sent to a device that requires no knowledge of smart systems, such as a bracelet in this case, whose only function is to notify the user with light and vibration. In addition, communication between the bracelet, the pill box, and the smart phone is done via Bluetooth as many elderly people have no access to the Internet. Consequently, the pill box does not only make the patient’s life easier, but also that of relatives worrying about their health.

This device would be very useful in care homes, where it would ease the work of carers by making it easier for them to control the pills the patients need to take, and thus it could help them program the intelligent pill box and schedule the pill intake for their patients. Availability in pharmacies and public health services would also help to reach a wider part of the population that can benefit from the advantages that RecallPill can offer. Furthermore, since it gathers information about the patient’s health (e.g., it detects and records if they missed a dosage as the patient would not have opened the pill box as scheduled), it could be used as a tracking tool and be of help in case of emergencies. Overall, its main goal is to improve people’s health, and therefore their quality of life.

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By Natalia Macho Quesada (@MachoNatalia), MSc student in Decision Making and Innovation 2.0, and Pablo M. De Rojas Malpartida (@PabloMDeRojas), MSc student in Telecommunications Engineering, both designers and developers of RecallPill.