Not Your Grandmother’s Pillbox: The uBox Steps Up Your Medication Game

February 15, 2013

5:00 pm

Did I already take my medication today? What would happen if I double-dosed? Whether it’s a sinus infection, thyroid disease, or chronic depression, taking your medication on time and in the right dosage is crucial to treatment and recovery. Fortunately, Abiogenix has developed the uBox, a smart pillbox that puts medication management in the palm of your hand.

The cofounders of Abiogenix, Sara Cinnamon and Goutam Reddy, see the uBox as a solution to the “open-loop” problem of health care. In the traditional way of prescribing medication, a physician writes the prescription and sends it off, with no hope of feedback on whether the patient has filled or refilled the prescription, taken the medication regularly, or taken it at all. The uBox connects patients back to health care providers by feeding medication adherence data into patient health records.

Here’s how it works: A patient is prescribed medication and the uBox. She then downloads a simple app to her smartphone and sets up her “care circle” by entering the contact information of her physician, friends, and family. She enters her prescription information, sets alarms, and deposits her medication into the uBox.

From there, the rest is automated. The uBox and the app are integrated so that when the alarm goes off, the uBox lights up and dispenses a dosage, and you get a notification on your smartphone. At all other times, the uBox is a silent and trustworthy gatekeeper for your meds. If you decide you do not want to take a dose, you are prompted to give an explanation, and your care circle gets notified. No more second-guessing, no more apathy, just accountability and the data to support it.

“Ideally this will become a standard of care,” says Cinnamon. This certainly is not your grandmother’s e-pillbox; the uBox does not need a Wi-Fi connection, so you can take it wherever your smartphone goes. “We are trying to reach younger populations that do not want to be tied down to their home and their sickness,” she says.

The uBox was an idea that came, not surprisingly, from the 2007 IDEAS Competition at MIT, where it started as a way to treat TB in India. The forward-thinking Abiogenix team kept running with it, taking it to trials in 2008. It appears, however, that the world in 2008 was not quite ready for the uBox. “It wasn’t the right time. The technology infrastructure was not in place,” Cinnamon explains, noting that the now-ubiquitous influence of smartphones will enable widespread use of the uBox.

So who are these medical device visionaries that make up the Abiogenix team? PhD/MD’s? Former Big Pharma R&D? Nope. It seems they come from much humbler beginnings. “None of us has a health care background. We are just engineers who care a lot about helping people,” says Cinnamon of her bi-coastal, San Francisco/Boston-based team. Bringing the uBox to a market that is ready for it has been a process requiring patience, but it looks like 2013 will be a good year for the device that is smart enough to tackle some very complex problems.

Abiogenix was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail San Francisco mixer.

Guest author Paul Michel is a technology consultant currently working with healthcare information systems. He is interested in how technology can be put in harmony with humanity to change lives, especially in healthcare. With a degree in Spanish and math from U.Va., he has always enjoyed using both sides of his brain to approach life’s most challenging situations, like what his next move in Settlers of Catan should be or how to tie a perfect tie knot.

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