Innovation Cities

Want to win cash for taking your meds? Here's how…

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
How taking your meds could make you rich

With more and more people moving to the cities, a huge strain is being placed on healthcare in terms of resources, finances and staff.

As hospitals and doctors' practises struggle under the increased demand, wasting time and money to make sure patients take the right medication is a cost healthcare authorities can well do without.

Almost 70 percent of Americans are taking a prescription drug, with over 50 percent taking two, according to Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center researchers.

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However, the World Health Organization has found that only 50 percent of Americans take their medication as prescribed. As well as being bad for your health, it costs the U.S. $290 billion every year in medical expenses, according to the New England Healthcare Institute.

Academics and researchers at The University of Pennsylvania are trying to come up ways to make sure patients take their medication at the right time and at the right dose.

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"A lot of the work that's going on now is trying to figure out what kind of interventions work in what kind of person," Professor Kevin Volpp, Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNBC's Innovation Cities.

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Using a mix of high-tech and psychology, Volpp and his team have found a simple way of getting patients to take their medicine: a 'smart' bottle cap and nightlight that lets patients – and their doctors – know whether they are following the prescription.

"The technology is here in the lid," Amanda Hodlofski, from CHIBE, said. "This is just a normal pill bottle…that your prescription comes in. In the cap…it records every time the bottle is closed, and then the cap communicates with the nightlight that's plugged into the outlet, which then sends the feedback to us."

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Data is recorded to show a patient's adherence to their prescription. If a pill bottle is not opened, then trial patients – and family members – are sent a reminder to take their meds. If they open the bottle, they are entered into a lottery which could see them win a cash prize. "These types of small incentives that provide immediate feedback can be very powerful at helping people taking their medication," Volpp said.

John Posse is a heart attack survivor. Like many Americans, he fell into a habit of neglecting to take his medication. "After a couple of years you get used to it and you think, 'well I'm fine now'," he told CNBC. "You don't like to think you're on the edge, so you know, if you don't take it, you don't take it, no big deal."

Now using the smart pill cap, Posse has started to take his medication regularly again. As well as having the chance to win some money, he is feeling healthier too. "Every three months I get blood tests and I see the dramatic drop in my cholesterol," he said. "It's amazing."

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