A New York City startup called Hero plans to replace those plastic pill organizers with a high-tech home appliance.
As demonstrated for me by the Hero team, it’s easy to load your medicines, vitamins and other health supplements into the machine, then indicate the dosage you’ll need and when you’re supposed to take it. Once you’re all set up, the Hero device will automatically alert you when it’s time to take your medication and dispense the pills accordingly.
Co-founders Kut Akdogan and Kal Vepuri said they both have experience in healthcare — Akdogan worked with large medical device companies while at Bain & Co. and also founded nutrition startup Almond.
“The whole pharmaceutical experience is still in the Stone Age,” he said.
How hard is it to remember the pills you need to take? Well, medicine “non-adherence” supposedly accounts for 125,000 annual deaths and between $100 billion and $289 billion in healthcare costs in the United States alone. And yes, there are other devices for dispensing pills, but Akdogan argued that they’re usually not built with the consumer in mind. The Hero appliance, on the other hand, is supposed to be friendly and easy-to-use.
In fact, Akdogan said it should remind users of a coffee maker, and I’d say that’s a fair description. Why a coffee maker? Well, when Akdogan wakes up in the morning , “I want to go get that cup of coffee, I look forward to that. I wake up and get to press that button and it whirrs — I feel success. That sort of magic was entirely missing from the medical experience.”
So Hero boasts a colorful display, and even some nice, encouraging whirring noises as it dispenses your pills.
On the more practical side, Akdogan noted that the device always asks you to approve the pills before dispensing, so you shouldn’t end up with a giant mess when you get home from travel. He said it’s designed to manipulate a number of different pill types, and can hold 10 pills at once.
There’s also a smartphone app that can alert family members or other caregivers when the dose is taken or if it’s skipped. (Akdogan emphasized that the app is HIPAA compliant and protects your privacy.)
Hero is solely financed by Vepuri’s firm Brainchild. The device is currently available for preorder at a price of $399 (compared to an expected retail price of $999). The plan is to ship Hero in early summer. As for the app, its basic functionality will be available for free, but you’ll need to pay if you want the premium features.