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Over the past 10 years, serial entrepreneur David Rose has amassed an impressive collection of brainchildren. From LEGO Mindstorms, the classic construction toy’s line of programmable robotics kits, to the Ambient Orb, a digital crystal ball that reflects fluctuations in a data set of a user’s choosing, Rose’s designs make information tangible.
Vitality, his new venture, aims to bring that design philosophy to the world of healthcare. The company’s first product, the GlowCap Solo, is an electronic cap that fits on a standard prescription bottle and reminds people to take their medicine via blinking lights and sounds. Its successor, the GlowCap Connect, will be able to subtly collect information from users in the process, enabling automatic refills and a network of adherence-boosting programs.
Rose spoke with Seed’s Evan Lerner about Vitality and how “enchanted objects” can defeat information overload and make our lives just a little bit better.
Seed: Give us the elevator pitch for Vitality’s GlowCaps.
David Rose: Over half of the people in the US are taking some sort of daily prescription medication, but the adherence rates for drugs treating chronic diseases are around 50 percent. Though it isn’t strictly about forgetfulness, adherence is a really huge problem that touches on everyone in the chain of healthcare. It leads to poorer health, increased hospitalizations, and early nursing home admissions. And it’s bad for insurance companies because they pay for all of that: Adherence problems can represent thousands of dollars of additional care costs a month per person.
Our business is trying to make GlowCaps standard default medicine packaging; consumers shouldn’t even have to pay extra for them. The cost would be picked up by insurance companies because they’d be reducing care costs, or by pharmaceutical companies, because they’d be increasing revenue. The monthly cost of our programs includes not only the hardware, but the intervention services that come with the GlowCap Connect.
Seed: What will those intervention services entail?
DR: The Connect, like the GlowCap Solo, politely blinks at you whenever it’s time to take a medication, and it will play increasingly insistent melodies if you fail to open the cap after an hour. But with the Connect, your prescription number becomes associated with the unique ID on the cap, which then sends messages to our network to tell us when you’ve opened it. We’re presuming that you take a pill when you do that, so we can text or call your phone if you miss a dose or remind you when your medication is running low. And since we’re working directly with pharmacies we can have them automatically send you a refill if you want.
The real point, however, is empowering the individual. Each week, we send you an email tracking your compliance and send a copy of that email to someone else. This could be a doctor, a loved one who’s supporting you, or someone with the same condition that we pair you up with—a health buddy, if you will. But it’s really important that it be left up to you: The data is about you and the control should be in your hands. And we’re now working with Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault, with the idea that people will be able to use this secure infrastructure to view and control their health data that comes in via these services.
Seed: How is the pricing for those services going to work?
DR: Pharmaceutical companies would spend $10 a person for a program that gets them to take 25 rather than 15 pills per month month. So for any pill over $1/day they get a positive return on investment. Another model is through insurance companies, where there’s an urgent need to reduce care costs.
There is also a consumer-based strategy, where we’re experimenting with loss-aversion pricing. Here, people pick a price, say $20 a month, which would be motivational to lose if they don’t use their GlowCap. But if they do use it, they get the product for free. We’re testing this with a research study at Harvard, and Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist, has another set of pilot tests going at Duke. What Ariely has shown with his studies is that the potential for losing an asset or resource is much more motivational than potential gains.
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