Monitoring Medicine

Every year, patient non-adherence to doctors’ prescription guidelines costs the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion. A substantial fraction of that total comes from hospital visits by patients who develop more acute conditions as a result of their non-adherence, and end up requiring expensive medical procedures that they otherwise would not have needed. And for some, even hospitalization is too little or too late—each day, one hundred people in the United States fatally overdose on drugs. Though sometimes intentional, misuse of medication can equally be the result of a patient’s misunderstanding or confusion, especially in the case of elderly patients charged with managing their own drug regimens. To address the issue, a team of six Northwestern University students are building a device to keep patients on track.

MedCap prototype

Mats Johansen, one of the students working on the project, explained, “Our goal is to create directly observable data on a simple user interface for healthcare professionals and families to monitor patient drug regimens.” The device is called MedCap, and it uses Temboo’s Parse Choreos and support for Arduino and BLE to cleverly track and control how patients are taking their medications:

“Our solution to this problem is a lock-on pill bottle cap with a novel mechanism that allows only one pill of any size to come out at a time. This makes the transition from traditional caps to our device as seamless as possible. A sensor built into the cap relays pill intake data to our secure database thanks to Temboo, making the patient’s electronic medical records accessible to the patient, a caretaker, or a physician via our iOS application. In the event that the pill dosage guidelines are not obeyed, the healthcare professionals receive a distress signal, and appropriate action can be taken.”


By bringing more concerned parties into direct contact with medication usage data, MedCap introduces a social element to prescription monitoring and adherence. It’s an innovative idea, and we’re looking forward to seeing where the team takes it next!