Last year, David Hege PharmD ’18, a pharmacy student at Pacific University, got a real-life lesson in the difficulties many patients and their caregivers experience when it comes to juggling prescription medications.
His father suffered a heart-related medical emergency and was sent home from the hospital with about a dozen different drugs. Hege helped his father sort out and organize the medications. What Hege didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be for him to keep tabs on whether his father actually took the medications as prescribed.
An estimated 40 percent of older adults take five or more prescription drugs, and their caregivers, often struggle to monitor actual medication intake.
“So many people out there are on a lot of drugs with complicated schedules that would be challenging for anyone to keep track of,” Hege said. “But these [patients] are usually older adults who may suffer from memory deficits, a loss of dexterity and declining vision.”
Determined to help his father stay on track, Hege scoured the internet for a “smart” drug-dispensing device with a medication-reminder feature for patients and a monitoring system for caregivers. When he came up empty-handed, he began to brainstorm ideas for such a product.
In April 2016, Hege’s concept got the backing of the Berglund Center.
Initially, Hege and his support staff worked on a prototype of a drug-carrying case connected to a computer. They eventually shifted gears, focusing instead on developing a prototype of a smartphone app.
“There are a lot of [medication-tracking] apps on the market, but none really utilize the full capacity of current technology” to transmit information to caregivers, Hege said.
As a Berglund Fellow, “I’ve had the opportunity to practice the leadership skills that I’ve been learning in school, coordinate the efforts of a handful of teams, and exercise creativity in the development of this product,” Hege said. “It has been an amazing and fulfilling experience.”