This probably sounds familiar: You take a look inside your pillbox and utter an uh-oh.
Yes, the medication you were supposed to take yesterday still is there. No, you’ll never make that mistake again.
Of course you will, as is the case for innumerable individuals for whom such memory lapses could have dire consequences.
Enter a group of South Fayette Township High School students who are in the process of coming up with a solution.
“What we’re working on is a system to ensure medication adherence, specifically for the elderly population,” student Parv Shrivastava said.
He and seven others, under the guidance of teacher James Hausman, are taking part by invitation in a program of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Project Invent, a nonprofit that supports high school students pursuing technological solutions to real-world problems
The South Fayette project involves developing a pill-containing product with an accompanying smartphone application.
“It would directly connect to Bluetooth,” Suraj Bokil said, referencing the common wireless connectivity technology, “and allow individuals to see their medication patterns, whether they’re taking their medications daily or they’re taking too many.
“If they forget to take their medication, through Bluetooth we would actually send notifications to their phones reminding them: Oh, you haven’t taken this pill today.”
Relevant information also could be sent to physicians, family members and caregivers.
Of course, some older adults have stuck with landlines, and the South Fayette students have taken that into consideration.
“We’re also thinking of implementing a wearable type of device,” Shreyas Raikhelkar said. “It’s more comfortable for them, and it’s also something they can’t avoid. It’s always with them.”
While the senior population represents the students’ target market, a Bluetooth reminder could be of use to younger folks, as well.
“We were interviewing some of our friends around the school, and we found out that a lot of people’s parents are reminding them,” Amara Marrese said. “When we go to college, our parents aren’t going to be there to remind us. So it would be useful to have a product and an app to remind us, so that we’re not dependent on someone else.”
Fellow team member Swathi Senthil has talked about the project with people who take certain types of anxiety medication or birth control.
“You have to take those at a specific time, and it can really mess up your cycle if you don’t,” she explained. “They said that something like this could really make sure that they’re not messing up their cycle and ruining their bodies.”
The students are using software called Android Studio to develop an application with a user-friendly interface, and for the pillbox, computer-aided design software for three-dimensional printing. They also are in the process of arranging for product testing.
“We’ve been trying to schedule appointments to go meet some of their senior citizens and receive input about what they feel about our product and what can be improved,” Pranav Dantu said.
Hausman has worked with South Fayette students on past invention-oriented projects, one of which resulted in LockRX, a prescription drug container activated by a fingerprint scan. That product served as inspiration for the current Project Invent team.
“We wanted to branch off that and also do something in the medical sector that would be impactful,” Parv explained. “We zeroed in on trying to impact with the elderly population, helping them ensure that they take their pills on time and have a better-connected ecosystem with the doctor, so the doctor is more aware of when and at what time the patients are taking their pills.”
Project Invent founder Connie Liu invited Hausman and his students to be among 10 teams from eight states to become involved in an effort that culminates with Demo Day, a San Francisco-area event in May that will draw attendance from the Silicon Valley.
“The kids will get a chance to present their project to them,” Hausman said, “and hopefully win some funding potentially for a startup.”
For more information about Project Invent, visit www.projectinvent.org.