A medication management app seeks to balance transparency and privacy

A healthcare IT entrepreneur who has previously worked for the Department of Defense has developed a sophisticated medication management app to make it easier for people to avoid adverse drug interactions. Michael Ramirez, the CEO and co-founder of Apothesource, an Iron Yard accelerator company, envisions the Pill-Fill app as having a transforming effect on increasing […]

A healthcare IT entrepreneur who has previously worked for the Department of Defense has developed a sophisticated medication management app to make it easier for people to avoid adverse drug interactions. Michael Ramirez, the CEO and co-founder of Apothesource, an Iron Yard accelerator company, envisions the Pill-Fill app as having a transforming effect on increasing the transparency around prescription medications.

Ramirez’s wife is a nurse and the idea for the app was partly inspired by her accounts of how frustrating it can be for patients to check all their drug information. There’s also the 100,000 needless deaths caused by adverse drug reactions each year, according to data from the FDA.

The app aggregates data such as which doctors prescribe each medication the user is taking, transmits alerts when drugs have been recalled and shows users pictures of each drug along with the medication name. Users can add new medications by scanning the package barcode. A recent update lets users see which drugs each user’s physician prescribes most frequently.

A package of alerts is designed to draw attention to potential problems. The app warns users of potential problems when taking certain medications together, using services from the National Library of Medicine. But the company also wants to eliminate waste. It makes users aware of potential duplicate ingredients when users search for new medications and informs users if two of their medications have the same effect on their body. Another alert targets medication misuse when users begin taking a higher-than-recommended dose of any ingredient across their medications. The app notifies patients if one of their medications is recalled by the manufacturer or the FDA,  if one of their medications is subject to shortages and if a drug they are taking is on a pharmacy’s low-price generic drug list.

For example, the app can be used to find out whether an over-the-counter pain medication would cause problems with other medication the user takes. By scanning the barcode, it can do a quick assessment. It’s the kind of thing that most people would probably overlook but automating the process in an app would make it less of a hassle.

The Pill-Fill app is designed to allow users to import healthcare data from Blue Button partner organizations such as Medicare, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also supports pulling medication history from prescription insurance providers Express Scripts/Medco and Caremark. It also supports national pharmacy chains that provide online medication history such as CVS, Kmart, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, Walmart.

Ramirez developed an API that it will license to other companies and developers. “We are keenly focused on being able to help other medication management and adherence programs thru our API.”

Ramirez is well-informed on data security issues, as you’d hope for someone who has worked as a computer scientist for the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. But the need for an app that could make patients’ drug data more secure came to his attention a few years ago when he was accessing a Rite Aid mobile app for his own prescription information and inadvertently got access to other patients’ prescription histories.

He pointed out one issue that tends to get overlooked when people talk about encryption — the location of the key to unlock it. Often it’s on the computer — the equivalent of taping your key to the door. Ramirez said companies need to make it more difficult for would-be hackers to find the encryption key.

Iron Yard accelerator companies are pitching their products at the upcoming Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco later this month.