We’re always looking for ways to simplify complex medication regimens, so I was excited to find out about PillPack.
1 in 10 adults in the US takes 5 prescription medications a day.
TJ Parker’s family runs a long-term care pharmacy and went on to become a pharmacist himself. Elliot Cohen is an engineer and advocate for customer-empowered healthcare. They came together to make the lives of caregivers easier and dramatically reduce the rate of medication errors by founding PillPack.
TJ knows that managing medications can be a full-time job. There are dozens of containers, refill dates to remember, and constant trips to the pharmacy. I think we all have our own labelling systems to make sure our loved ones take their medications in the right dose at the right time. He knew there had to be a better way – one that would be simpler, and safer, for everyone.
TJ explained, “As a second-generation pharmacist, I spent most of my life watching people struggle with managing their medications — dozens of pill bottles, weekly trips to the pharmacy and time-consuming DIY organization — while their pharmacists had limited resources to help. I knew there had to be a better solution if we could simply marry this industry with design and technology.”
Your days of pre-sorting medications are over.
PillPack was designed to take the guesswork out of managing medications and it’s been a great success. TJ shared how “we’ve heard from the sons and daughters, who live thousands of miles away from their parents, telling us about the joy and relief they’ve had from being able to help manage everything remotely online, confirming shipments have been mailed bi-monthly, and knowing everything is taken care of.”
Available in 47 states, PillPack is an online pharmacy, but better. Every two weeks, customers receive a personalized roll of pre-sorted medications, along with a recyclable dispenser and any other medications that cannot be placed into packets, like liquids and inhalers. Vitamins and other supplements can be included in the package. Each shipment includes a medication label that explains what each pill is and how it should be taken. This sheet is a useful tool to bring along to doctors visits and the ER, when you’ll need to be able to provide a list of the medications someone is taking.
Not only does PillPack pre-sort medications, it also manages refills. Medications are guaranteed to ship on time and you can track shipments, refills, and co-pays online. There’s no additional fee to use PillPack, so you pay the same standard co-pay as with any online pharmacy.
PillPack is an online pharmacy, but you still have the same access to pharmacists that you always have. TJ explained how eliminating the need to spend your time with the pharmacist untangling insurance issues means “our customers can just focus on taking their medications and nothing else, and our pharmacists can focus on service.” Customers can email or call their PillPack pharmacist with questions any time.
If the person you’re taking care of forgets to take their medications, you’re in luck. They’re currently developing an app to remind PillPack users when it’s time to take their medication. You can look for that to come out in the next month or two. It’s a huge step forward that makes the lives of people helping their friends and family manage medications much easier.
I heard about PillPack through the folks at TEDx, so I knew PillPack came out of a Hackaton at MIT. I asked TJ to share a little more about how he got involved: “Elliot Cohen and I were actually two of the original founders of Hacking Medicine at MIT, so it was a bit rigged 🙂 Hacking Medicine was a really great way to get feedback on our idea and it really helped validate the idea was worth working on. It was the catalyst that enabled us to start PillPack.”
In so many ways, healthcare seems stuck in the past. Hackathons are bringing fresh ideas to the forefront and connecting innovators to the funding and resources necessary to take an idea from conception into our homes.
If you’re a design nerd who wants to learn more about the thinking behind PillPack, check out this great podcast interview on the Mayo Clinic website.