A lot of people take some kind of drug every day. Blood pressure medicines, birth control pills, vitamins, anti-inflammatory... They all have one thing in common; they are very easy to forget.
The small company Mevia has developed a pharmaceutical packaging solution that alerts when the medicine seems to be forgotten. A small device connects to the graphite strips printed on the blister pack, and each time the patient takes a pill, a signal is sent in real time to Mevia. If there is no signal, a reminder is sent out to the patient, a relative or healthcare provider, via SMS or an automated phone call.
Started at the school of entrepreneurship
The idea originated from Stora Enso. Jesper Hassel, CEO of Mevia, started working on the idea at Chalmers’ school of entrepreneurship, where he ended up after finishing his studies in industrial engineering and management.
– The first year at the school of entrepreneurship was similar to a regular year of a Chalmers master’s program. Then, at the end of the first year, we had to choose three or four ideas that we wanted to work with, and try to develop into companies. We really had to think about our interests, what we wanted to do, and who in the group we thought we could work with, Jesper Hassel says.
– Then we were assigned one of the projects. I got my first choice! Much of what we did in school after that point was connected to the company. It was a great way to get started.
What are the needs? Where should we start? How do you write a business plan? And where can we find knowledge? They went through the questions, one by one. For Jesper Hassel, it became important to quickly find persons with great knowledge and skills in this field. Boo Edgar and Karin Wingstrand, both with many years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, were approached early and are now members of Mevia's Board.
Developing the company as well as the technique
Four years have passed since they left Chalmers and the company is progressing.
– I think it’s developing quite slowly, but if you ask those who have done this earlier, they will tell you we’re doing just fine. It’s a slow industry. And the fact that we are a company is sort of a victory in itself. This means we’ve solved the problems we met so far, Jesper Hassel says.
One of the major problems turned out to be that the technology initially was not good enough. Today, it has been updated and tested by home care providers and at retirement homes. And improvements are made all the time – continuous feedback makes it possible to develop the technique in the right way.
– We have linked our technology to dose packaging; bags with the right dose of your daily medicines – one bag for every occasion of the day. This works well. Our technology can be linked to any type of packaging, bags or blister packs.
What does it mean to miss a pill?
Why is it important to check if the medicine is taken? The question has several answers. There are some pharmaceuticals where a single missed dose can cause health problems. And some medications will not have an effect until after several weeks – and then the patient may lose faith and stop using it. A third scenario is a patient who forgets every other pill causing the doctor to raise the dosage, thinking that this is necessary. Suddenly, there is a risk of the patient being exposed to a much too high dosage.
– We would like to primarily support those who are happy to take their medicines themselves, but would like some support. For example, elderly individuals who manage fine by themselves but see the reminder as an extra safety measure.
Somewhat unexpected, the idea has encountered some hesitation from home care staff.
– They may think that their jobs will disappear, or that our system will cause them stress. Sometimes they are running late, and then the reminders can be annoying. But maybe you need to adjust the time on the dose package? We want to support the care givers and make it possible for them to spend time doing the right things, Jesper Hassel says.
– Everyone wants different kinds of solutions. Some want a reminder five minutes before the medication is to be taken, which would make others go insane. But it’s easy to adapt our system! You can also control who will receive the reminder. First, maybe the elderly patient will receive an SMS, and at a later stage, you may want a notification to go also to your relatives. It is easy to add and remove this.
Hot company of 2017
For health economic reasons, it is of course important for the society as a whole to find systems that make it possible for elderly people to manage their health care issues themselves for a longer period of time, before home care providers step in. Or, for example, finding ways to remember vital pharmaceuticals as blood-thinning medicines and other preventive medicines, thus saving the individual from illness while at the same time reducing strain on hospitals.
– Our vision and aim are right on track, and the fact that we’ve been appointed one of Sweden’s 33 hottest young technology companies in 2017 is a clear sign, says Jesper Hassel.
Text: Mia Malmstedt