Pain Management Platform

A mobile app and connected pill bottle to improve pain management.

Challenge: One of my family members suffers from chronic back pain. She is often caught off guard by unbearable pain and struggles to stay on top of all her required medications.

Outcome: I designed a smart pill bottle, “PillSmart,” to help people manage their pain. PillSmart connects to a patient’s phone to make sure a dose is never missed. A bluetooth-connected app aggregates available health data to identify triggers and to offer actionable insights to patients.

Video: Follow Jane as she uses the PillSmart connected pill bottle. (46 sec)

Medication reminders The PillSmart app connects to the pill bottle using bluetooth, and records when each dose is taken. Medication reminders alert patients only if they forget to take a pill, or if the app detects that they likely will miss a dose–such as when they leave the house without taking their medication. Medication logs can be automatically sent to doctors or other members of a patient’s support network.

Tracking pain When the pain tracking feature is turned on, the app will occasionally ask the user to report his or her pain level. The app automatically logs users’ activity, motion, location, and weather data, enabling the app to identify pain-related patterns and offer actionable insights. (For example, it can recognize that pain levels are higher after long car trips. If desired, on future car trips, the app can remind the user to take appropriate breaks.)

Pain level tracker
Pain Level Tracker App
Checking in…
A notification appears on a phone screen.
Actionable insights
A new insight is shown in a pain management app
Support network
A network of family and caregivers

Forming healthy habits The PillSmart medication reminder app helps patients get in the habit of taking their medications. It uses small rewards and statistics to help patients never miss a pill.

Video: A walkthrough of the PillSmart app. (1:22)

Product service ecology The PillSmart app and pill bottle help connect the entire pain management ecology. The app communicates with pharmacies, doctors, and caregivers, and collects information from fitness trackers, HealthKit apps, and the pill bottle itself.

The PillSmart pill bottle and app are a part of the greater service ecology involving doctors, caregivers, friends, pharmacists, fitness trackers, and other medications

Designing the physical form My initial design for the pill bottle used tamper-proof cartridges filled by a pharmacy and dispensed through a patient's Touch ID. Though this worked for homebound patients, I found that the device was too large for people who took their medications outside of the home. User interviews also showed that people prefer taking medications discretely. I designed the final tamper-proof pill container in SolidWorks CAD software and made several prototypes with a 3D printer.

Foam models and 3D printed prototypes
Pencil sketches of pill dispensers

The final prototype Using a miniature Arduino microcontroller, I connected sensors and lights to create a convincing 3D mock PillSmart product.

Conceptual model I mapped the functions of the PillSmart bottle and app to clearly communicate functions, overlaps, and priorities.

Conceptual model of the PillSmart pill bottle and pain tracking app