Sam Zamarripa

Tangible objects are easy to talk about. “Do you like my new car?” “What kind of smartphone do you have?” “This tomato came from my own backyard.”

It’s the reason we usually lead with our device when we talk about what we do at Intent Solutions. It’s just easier to talk about tadTM and its abilities as a smart, automated prescription drug dispenser than it is to talk about our other solution: the data that tad generates.

Granted, it’s not as tangible as tad, but in the long run the data offers the real value to healthcare providers and clinical trial administrators. And it’s the reason I’m devoting this blog to describing its benefits.

tad can generate data and present it in a concise dashboard that provides every detail about what happens to a drug once it is prescribed to a patient. It tracks every time the drug is dispensed and by whom (through tad’s fingerprint recognition system), and it dispenses medication only as the prescription requires. It works like a Fitbit, tracking not footsteps but the minute-by-minute history of a prescription—all in a user-friendly app on a smartphone or computer.


In hospice care, tad’s data can solve diversion problems

In the case of hospice patients, for example, tad alerts hospice officials of any diversion attempt by unauthorized individuals to take or redistribute the drugs, or any attempt by anyone, authorized or unauthorized, to take more of the drugs and take them more frequently than the prescription requires. Problems are avoided quickly, with concrete evidence provided.

Should a prescription need to be changed or at the time of the patient’s death, tad provides a secure way for caregivers to return the remaining medications to the hospice organization for final accounting and disposal, and the data trail it provides is invaluable in helping the hospice reconcile the remaining medications with what was originally prescribed.

In hospice care, this is a very big deal. 

Whenever drug diversion is suspected in hospice care, it often boils down to a contest of wills or veracity between the professional caregivers and the family, and it’s left up to the hospice organization to decide if the drugs have been misused, abused or diverted to other uses. Not a good position to be in, especially with no precise record of how the drugs were administered after they were picked up or delivered from the pharmacy to the home. tad—and the data it generates—provides that record.

Current methods for preventing diversion—pill counts, lockboxes, limiting each prescription to only a few pills at a time, employee training—are costly and labor-intensive. No matter how carefully they are managed, they are only baby steps in the quest to solve a giant problem.


In clinical trials, tad makes adherence tracking an exact science

In another important market for Intent Solutions, clinical trials face a different challenge from hospice care. They struggle with accurately tracking whether participants in a clinical trial are taking their drugs as prescribed. 

Traditionally, trials have had no effective means of monitoring and managing in real time the way participants take their medication. Administrators must rely on participant notes or diaries submitted after the study is over, and then the number of participants may need to be expanded to account for uncertainties in adherence rates—increasing costs and slowing time to market.

tad reminds participants when it is time to take their medication, but it goes a step further. It also provides clinical trial administrators with a dashboard that keeps them up to date—in real time—with a clear view of usage data at every step of the trial’s progress. If adherence is a problem, administrators can spot it quickly and expand the field if necessary. If the trial is offering incentives to participants, administrators have solid documentation demonstrating the participants’ performance, and can intervene at any time to change the field.

Unlike smart pill bottle caps, tad controls who has access to the drug and dispenses only the right dose at the right time to the right person.

(While caps with a Medication Event Monitoring System were shown in a  to slightly improve compliance among patients with schizophrenia, lost caps were costly, and the study concluded that patient compliance with such monitors was only estimated, because they only recorded the number of bottle openings and the date and time of each opening. A more recent  published in 2017 in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal reported pill bottles with digital caps reminding clinical trial participants to take their meds had no effect whatsoever on adherence rates.) 


Removing the guesswork

At Intent Solutions, we think tad and the data it provides are far superior to these smart cap/smart bottle systems. While some of them do track the weight in the bottle as a measure of whether a dose was taken when it should have been, they provide zero control over who is taking the medication or who has access to the bottle. 

And while diversion isn’t the issue in clinical trials that it is in the hospice setting, isn’t it better to know precisely who triggered each dose of a medication, and when?

Knowing. That’s the difference Intent Solutions’ data makes. Whatever the environment, we’re removing a lot of the guesswork that—until now—has played a significant role in monitoring and managing prescription drugs. Sure, data might be intangible, but the results it delivers are real. 

We’ll be sharing some of those results when we report in a future post on a current pilot project with tad in hospice care.