This week, the subject is health once more. PharmAssistant proposes a new way to keep track of the pills you have to take, and help improve health and peace of mind while at it. I talked to Diogo Ortega, their CEO.
In a nutshell, What is PharmAssistant and how did the idea come about?
The idea was born when my grandmother (who is almost 80 and completely independent), took by accident one pill intended to be taken by my grandfather. She ended up fine, but I realized that the medication routines are increasingly complex, and that could be a threat for my grandparents’ independence. I got the chance to develop this idea during a 24hour hackathon in Lisbon (“Appy Day BPI”), last December, and I ended up winning not only the first prize, but also the audience prize.
A few months later I decided to proceed with the idea, and together with my team we developed a smart pill container that lets you know when it’s time to take your medicines, and also allows any family member or health professional to monitor if our user is complying with their doctor’s prescription. They can also receive a notification if there is a long period of inactivity or if the device runs out of battery, for example.
What are the SmartBottles and how do they interact with our smartphones?
Our smart pill containers are connected devices, that have a built-in visual and audible alarm, and also an opening sensor. This alarm is activated when it’s time to take the medicines inside it. When you open the container, the alarm is stopped and the dosage instructions will appear onscreen or be read by your smartphone or tablet.
With our monitoring service, a family member or healthcare professional will be able to remotely monitor if the user is taking his medicines on time and according to his doctor’s prescription. They can even receive a notification if something goes wrong, like an ignored alarm or the device running out of battery.
Our app can also analyse medication patterns and detect any possible adverse interaction between the medicines you’re taking, so that you can consult your physician about it.
How do you see you product improving health in general?
Our major goal is to create a product that has value not only for patients, but also for family members, health professionals and all the stakeholders in the health space. We will do that by improving medication adherence: around 125,000 people die each year in the US due to not taking their medicines correctly. This also results in costs of around $290B for the healthcare system, and it will be even worse when, by 2020, around half the population of the US will have at least one chronic condition requiring medication. We want to change this picture.
What are your plans in terms of launch and shipping?
We intend to sign distribution agreements with partners like pharmacy chains and domiciliary assistance providers. If everything goes as planned, we will have our first products ready for shipping by the end of this year.
How do you see the European startup landscape?
It’s hot and growing! I believe that the momentum for European startups is now. The arrival of funds like Google Ventures is a sign of that, we just need more success cases (like exits and IPO’s), preferably coming from young ecosystems like Lisbon. We saw a good amount of relevant players attending the recent “Lisbon Investment Summit”, and that is definitely a good sign.
What other startup is on your radar and why?
We recently talked with the founders of Mellow, and I was positively surprised with their progress. They are both Portuguese, but embraced the market as global from the beginning: they ran a very successful preordering campaign, have a presence in the US and are getting ready for manufacturing in Asia. In my opinion, this is the right approach to every new entrepreneurial venture: you need to explore global opportunities, talk to people from everywhere around the world, and try to figure out where your market is and how to get there.
To find out more about PharmAssistant visit http://www.pharmassistant.net/