"Nishant Kumar, the founder and chief exec of Embryyo Technologies, a medical technology and research start-up incubated at Pune’s Venture Centre, was troubled by the way tuberculosis (TB) treatment was left midway by a large number of patients in India. There wasn’t an effective way of ensuring patients stayed the course. “This was because the TB medication involves a drug regimen of about 6 months where the patient is required to take a total of about 400 pills,” he says. There are several reasons why treatment is left incomplete, including side effects, forgetfulness, poor counselling and duration of the regimen.
The enormity of the problem—as many as 2.5 million people in India were affected by TB in 2015 as per a World Health Organization report—inspired Kumar to do something about it. He visited the local district level hospitals and direct observation treatment (DOT) centres to interact with the clinicians, healthcare workers and patients, which helped him in “collecting more insights” and further strengthened his resolve to address this problem. He says that it demanded an easy-to-use, affordable solution which could fit seamlessly in an already established public health infrastructure in the country.
The result was BoxRx, an electronic medical event monitoring system that has currently been piloted for drug adherence monitoring in TB patients. According to Kumar, most people with TB are cured by a strictly followed, six-month drug regimen but any interruption to it can cause drug resistance.
That is where the innovation behind BoxRx comes in handy. The solution comprises a specially designed electronic pill box which carries the TB blister pack as prescribed by the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP). A tearable paper with conductive ink tracks printed corresponding to each pill is placed beneath the blister pack before closing the box. Whenever a pill is removed from the blister pack, the conductive track gets broken and this activity is logged and transmitted from an in-built Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) circuit to a central server in the form of an SMS. The server processes the information in the SMS and updates the mobile application of the doctor/health worker assigned to that particular patient.
To scale up the innovation, Kumar plans to work very closely with the national and international organizations that are leading the TB control programmes. Also on the cards is large-scale manufacturing and on-field implementation of the innovation so that it reaches the maximum number of patients.
Kumar envisions a society that is centred on harmonious and sustainable co-existence. “I believe that good health is the primary signature of prosperity for an individual, a family, a nation and the world at large,” he says."