skip to Main Content

Study finds “smart” pill bottles do little to change patient behavior

Over the past decade, statistics on poor medication adherence have catalyzed the development of many intervention programs and devices, including apps, monetary incentives, and medication therapy management. These interventions encompass a range of different approaches and designs: while some harness social networks to push people towards adherence, others engage patients through sleek technology and automatic reminder systems.

One such device, the GlowCap pill bottle, lights up and chimes to remind patients to take their meds. Inside the cap, a chip monitors when the bottle is opened and wirelessly relays alerts via AT&T to Vitality, the bottle’s manufacturer. Vitality sends the data back to the patient and the patient’s doctor, as well as any other approved individuals, in order to keep the patient on track.

GlowCap is similar to many other smart pill containers on the market, including AdhereTech’s smart pill bottle and Tricella’s Bluetooth smart pillbox, that take advantage of digital technology to lift adherence and improve health outcomes. However, researchers just completed a major study suggesting these devices have little to no impact on adherence. Published online in the journal Jama Internal Medicine, the study looked into the impact of GlowCap smart pill bottles on patients who had experienced heart failure. Patients were also given the option to have the bottle alert someone if they missed a dose — adding a social aspect —and received a cash reward if they took their medicine on time.

Dr. Kevin Volpp, the physician and health economist leading the study, expected to see a large increase in medication adherence, as well as a “significant reduction in hospital readmissions and lower health care costs,” according to an NPR article. Unfortunately, Dr. Volpp found that the opposite was true: the compound intervention had no significant effect on medication adherence or clinical outcomes.

It’s possible there was a flaw in the study’s design or even in the devices, though it’s more likely that these types of interventions simply fail to address patients’ complex reasons for nonadherence. While some patients may be forgetful, others may skip their meds because of negative side effects or financial reasons. Every patient is different in their medication adherence behaviors and attitudes, and so a one-size-fits-all approach — like the GlowCap bottle – yields no adherence uplift, on average, across all patients.

In contrast, AllazoHealth strives to treat each patient as an individual by personalizing interventions. By harnessing the power of predictive analytics, we are able to tailor the frequency, message, and channel used for each patient throughout intervention programs, thus achieving a significant uplift in adherence and generating substantial cost-savings for payers. By engaging with patients meaningfully, we unlock the power of interventions to do what they’re intended to: engage patients, lift adherence, and ultimately save lives.


Learn more about how AllazoHealth’s Artificial Intelligence technology can effectively help improve medication adherence.

Learn more about the impact of AllazoHealth's technology


Improving the Effectiveness of Adherence Interventions by


We worked alongside Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and their call center vendor to launch one of our biggest programs, working to improve adherence rates across their population of 104,392 Medicare Advantage Part D (MAPD) patients. We found that AllazoHealth targeted interventions accounted for 5.45 times the uplift in adherence compared to traditionally targeted interventions.