Clutch spoke with Medisafe’s Head of Marketing and Business Development, Jon Michaeli, as part of a series of interviews about wearable technology.
Learn more about Medisafe at Medisafe.com.
Could you describe your company and your role there?
Medisafe is a mobile platform with an app for patients that helps them remember to take their medications. The intent of Medisafe, from the very beginning, was to connect the important stakeholders in the care continuum, in order to solve the $290 billion problem of non-adherence to prescribed medications.
Non-adherence isn’t just an issue of forgetfulness. It’s an issue of medication affordability, the existence – or lack of existence – of a support system, and patient comfort level in taking their medications. Patients want to see positive results arise from putting a chemical – their medication – into their body. For example, when they take their medication, their health improves.
We accomplish this goal by partnering and integrating with Apple’s HealthKit. Patients can track their blood pressure and glucose levels and see that, by taking their medications, their levels normalize. This visible evidence of improvement motivates them to continue to take their medications.
My role at the company is Head of Marketing and Business Development. This means that I direct consumer efforts and B2B and B2C partnerships. I focus on the different ways of acquiring users into the platform and on how to provide value to the industry by sharing data and insights from the platform.
Could you describe your wearable application, Medisafe?
Medisafe is a mobile platform solution that also extends to wearable devices. This capability is very powerful and will become even more powerful over time. But, it is important to know that we’re not just for the wearables market.
Mobile Application Features
Virtual Pillbox - The mobile application allows you to add your medications to a virtual pillbox, so the patient can see his/her medications virtually, in the app, and physically, in the medicine cabinet at home. The virtual pillbox intentionally resembles a physical pillbox – the four-quadrant pillbox – that chronic patients will be especially familiar with. For patients taking many medications, it’s particularly valuable for them to see their medications on the screen, the same way they see them in their bathroom or on their kitchen counter.
Notification Center - Once you add medications to your pillbox, you receive notifications reminding you to take these medications. We have a feed tailored specifically to each patient user, and Medisafe can learn more about the user from profile information. This information includes the medications used, and it shows whether the patient takes the medications. As more medications are added, we start to see what conditions the patient is trying to manage. Then, we send content, information, educational tools, resources, and tips that are specific to the patient’s conditions.
MedFriend - We built in caregiver support. For example, you can add a ‘MedFriend,’ which essentially is a loved one, a family member, or a professional caregiver, who tracks a patient’s care. The MedFriend receives a notification if the patient misses a dose, monitors the prescription schedule, and helps keep the patient on track.
One Account, Multiple Users - One account can have multiple user profiles, so, for example, a parent could manage their kids’, spouse’s, and elderly parents’ medications, simply by toggling back-and-forth between profiles on one account.
Apple HealthKit Integration - Also, we are importing measurements and data from Apple HealthKit into Medisafe from connected devices, like blood pressure cuffs and glucometers. This step will allow patients to see the tangible impact that taking their medications has on their health.
Partnerships - Another project and partnership aims to send targeted, geography-based coupons to Medisafe users, based on the medications they use. The idea is to have these data flows, these interactions, between different parties, whether it’s the hospital, the payer, or other third parties, such as pharmacies. The coupons are aligned with the type of medications a consumer takes and their geographic location. We also have the ability to connect to hospitals, which allows users to pull medication information from hospital data into the app, so they don’t have to enter it manually.
Wearable Application Features
Platform Availability - On the wearable, we support Android Wear, so Google Fit, and the Apple Watch.
Medications Feed - You can see what’s coming up and what medications you’re supposed to be taking next and receive notifications reminding you to take your medication at a specific time.
Interactions - You can respond and interact in a number of ways:
- ‘Yes, I took it.’
- ‘No, I didn’t take it.'
Today, the wearable app mostly focuses on reminders, but as Apple builds out the Apple Watch functionality with Apple Watch OS 2, Medisafe will continue to update the wearable app’s capabilities.
What challenge or opportunity were you seeking to address by incorporating a wearable application into your business?
Access On Multiple Platforms - You want to be available to users on any platform, device, or medium that makes sense. But, even though being on the front end of the technology curve is important in terms of innovation, you also have to consider whether a legitimate use case exists.
24-7 Alert System - In our case, people are very mobile throughout their day, and their phone is usually on them but not necessarily always. If you need to take medication when you don’t have your phone to remind you, there needs to be another way to remember. The watch can be on your wrist 24-7.
The watch also makes it even more difficult to miss a notification. For example, if your phone is vibrating in your pocket or purse, you may not feel it, whereas the watch is in your face.
It makes sense for us to support our users in any way we can. With the watch app, we are making it even harder, virtually impossible, to skip a dose accidentally.
Could you describe the process of developing the wearable application?
Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it in too much detail because Apple asks us not to disclose some of that information. I can say that we worked very closely with Apple, and we were among the first set of mobile apps in health to support the watch.
Duration and Timeline
When Apple Watch came out, that was the day Medisafe was available for Apple Watch.
In-house v. External Development
All of our engineers are in-house. All of our development is done in-house, both for our core mobile app, as well as the watch.
Could you describe your marketing strategy surrounding the development and release of the new application?
We had our typical PR engine going, and we coordinated closely with Apple as well. As you know, they’re [Apple] pretty diligent about ensuring that certain things are adhered to – certain standards and how we talk about things. We were doing our best to let the broader population know that Medisafe now supports Apple Watch as well.
What challenges did you face during the project’s rollout, and what steps did you take to overcome these challenges?
I can’t say too much, but there weren’t any major hurdles or obstacles. When you work to develop an app for Apple, they’re pretty buttoned-up. They’re motivated to have you succeed, and they put in the resources you need to do that.
In what ways did your initial conceptualization of the application change throughout the development process?
We had a vision about what the wearable app should be, and I can say that our ideas only were somewhat constrained by what the watch can do today, which is understandable. It’s a different use case and form factor, and it has much less real estate in terms of space. You want to make sure you keep it simple.
Understanding what the watch capabilities were, we sought to build something that was not overly complex. It’s a new device and a new way of using Medisafe, so we wanted to gather feedback. We have all kinds of ideas of where we go from here, and we’re providing feedback to Apple about the types of functionality and capabilities we’d like to see now and in the future.
Could you share any statistics, metrics, or feedback that might demonstrate your application’s performance?
I can tell you that it’s a report I will be getting very soon. We have seen higher levels of engagement with the Medisafe app, but in terms of adherence, which is a core metric for us, we do not have data regarding whether our patients are taking their medications at a higher rate by wearing the Apple Watch.
What lessons did you learn, and where are you going next?
In terms of the experience, it’s clear that when you’re talking about medications and people’s levels of mobility, you need to give them options, and the closer you are to their eyes and hands, the better. Because of this concept, the notion of a web application for us isn’t that compelling. It might have some usefulness if someone’s entering their meds for the first time, editing them, or filling out their profile, but obviously, on a laptop or desktop, getting a notification – unless you’re bound to your chair for the entire day – just isn’t that useful.
We want to make sure that we are in all the places that matter, and the watch is certainly one of them. So, we see this step – embracing wearables – as an important part of our evolution as a company. We see it as an opportunity to be closer to the patient.
I mentioned that we’re working with Apple HealthKit. The watch is collecting a number of different measurements – biometrics – by itself. The phone doesn’t really do this. It only integrates with Apple HealthKit, whereas the watch actually collects data. We’re going to progress to collect blood pressure data as well, as soon as Apple solves some of the algorithm challenges.
The watch is going to evolve, and wearables are going to evolve to collect more and more biometrics that are relevant to the patient’s health, specifically to medication adherence. If my blood pressure goes down, it’s a sign that taking my medication is working. That’s just one context, but there are many others. As the device records more data, we will see the patient getting a lot more value out of Medisafe.
What advice would you share with another organization that is seeking to develop a wearable application?
Make sure you understand the use case. You really have to simplify what it is that you’re going to do on the watch: understand what the boundary is so you don’t overcomplicate the application and make it unusable. I think this is really the key.
It always goes back to the question, what is your core value proposition? Does it fit with the use case for that medium, that platform? How can you keep the consumer engaged? You have to think about what’s relevant to you and whether it makes sense for a particular platform.
For us, having Medisafe on the Apple Watch increases user engagement because it’s another touch-point for patients. It reinforces the overall utility of the mobile app. For others though, this may not be the case.
Future of Wearables
What role do you see wearable technology playing in the next 6-12 months?
Speaking specifically about the watch and focusing on the health sector, I believe the Apple Watch is very relevant in this category. But, you also have Fitbit, Jawbone, and many other players in the space, doing interesting work. I think as the sensors and data improve and become more sophisticated, the crossover to wearable apps will bring more value.
I think some people are waiting on the sidelines to purchase these devices when the capabilities improve. The second and third versions of the Apple Watch will be more interesting and valuable as stand-alone devices in the future.