Are you taking your meds efficiently?

As CEO of illuminate.health, I naturally talk about the work we do every chance I get to anyone who will listen: not only do I get to help educate consumers, but I also learn a few things from them along the way. 

On this particular day, I was returning home from the Digital Health CEO Summit in San Francisco and began talking with the flight attendant. She had just moved to a retirement community and was very happy about her decision.  It reminded me that, in the early days of our product, we had been invited to give a presentation at a similar venue. “This is great!” we thought. “We’ll be able to demonstrate how helpful the app is to everyone here and get everyone to download it!” 

(…Unfortunately for us, we were scheduled at the same time as Family Night – and we were no match for people’s attention against an ongoing game of Bingo.)   

Over the course of the flight, I learned that her sister was a nurse and we talked about our mutual respect of those in the nursing and pharmacy professions. I explained to her how our medication management app worked and I appreciated that she got so excited about it. She told me about the thyroid medication she was on, and I showed her the info that came up in the app, one point being that she should take it on an empty stomach for better efficacy.

“I’ve been on thyroid meds for 12 years – and no one’s EVER told me to take it on an empty stomach!”

I felt so bad for her — such a waste to take a medication inaccurately for so long when she could have been feeling better – and more importantly, getting better.  Hearing stories like hers is why illuminate.health is on the path it is.

Who would have thought the “when” of taking a medication would be so important?

Of course, to launch a product like this, we had to do our research. Apart from pouring over published academic journals, speaking to physicians, pharmacists, and patients of all kinds, we also found some early collaborators within caregiver support groups who had questions about the product that we offered.  Some of it was anticipated. The safety piece, for example, was a given to some degree: Who wouldn’t want safety to come first?

What was surprising was the confusion or unknowns around WHEN to take medications. Most participants took all of their meds in the morning or evening. (One of the consumers we interviewed said her mom used to sit at the dining table in the morning, pour out the dosages of all of her 15 meds from their various bottles onto the table and just take them all together.)

According to a recent survey by DrFirst, patients don’t feel as though they have enough time with physicians to fully understand what meds they’re taking. This leads to confusion – patients might not take medications at all because of it. In our research, we found that some people would take meds in ways that weren’t convenient, though they didn’t realize they were working against their own best interest: 

  • Someone was taking a diuretic at night, then waking up multiple times to use the bathroom (diuretics are intended to help the body lose water) hence spoiling the quality of their sleep.  
  • Someone else was taking an antibiotic with food without being aware that it was less effective when taken that way.  
  • A third person was prescribed a med that they took faithfully every morning, but was tired all day afterward… it turned out that the prescribed med caused drowsiness if taken first thing in the morning – which makes for not so great a day.  

We saw everything people were doing to try and manage their daily medication regimens from complicated Excel spreadsheets to paper notes stuck to the fridge with a magnet.  A few people had tried medication reminder apps (and there are thousands of them on the App store), but the information those provide is only as good as the patient or caregiver who enters the information in the first place. 

Looking for a better way

We figured there had to be a better way.  So, we took all of our research and continued to consult with medical and pharmaceutical professionals in order to build clinical algorithms. These do all the hard work on behalf of patients as if they had a personal pharmacist looking over their medication regimen. Hence, our AI-based Personalized Medication Regimen!

So, no more taking medication for 12 years without knowing you shouldn’t take it with food. No more taking every pill you’re prescribed all at once just to get it out of the way first thing in the morning.  Just like the nurse at a hospital does not ask the patient when they want to take their meds, why should Illuminate?

Rather, more of looking out for you as the patient or caregiver, and making sure you (or the person you’re taking care of) are taking your medications effectively for optimizing wellness. 

At illuminate.health, we aim to provide peace of mind  – and with the ease of our med management app, we’re one more step in the right direction.

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