Design of a Novel Portable Pillbox; Packaging Design and How it Relates to Consumer Choices and Adherence to Medications

Boettner, Robert, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, University of Virginia
Shannon, Barker, Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia

The technical portion of this project involves the novel design of a portable pillbox that can fit in a standard wallet. The problem this project aimed to address is the lack of proper adherence to medication regiments among patients. This is a complex issue that is taxing on the healthcare system and can have negative consequences with patient outcomes in the long term. Some of the reasons for this include confusing dosage labels, self-consciousness, or a general forgetfulness and lack of access to the prescription. The purpose of our design is to provide users an easier, more convenient way of taking their pills on-the-go while maintaining a level of discretion. Current pillbox designs have some drawbacks ranging from bulkiness to low pill capacities. Our design criteria involved keeping the container discreet, durable, compartmentalized, inexpensive, and maximize the pill carrying capacity. Ideally, the device would be used for people who have daily medication routines and need to carry the pills with them throughout the day. Rather than carry separate pillbox entity, this can fit into the credit card slot in a wallet for easy access. While a lot more work needs to go into dealing with the concern of medication adherence, learning what habits and tools patients can use to bolster adherence can be crucial in making progress.
For the STS section, the topic explores the packaging of medications and how this relates to adherence and consumer choice. The overall theme tying both projects together is the storage of medication and how this relates to the user. Without the immediate presence of a physician to answer questions or for guidance, the drug package must serve this function as it has an impact on patient habit. This is also applicable to the over-the-counter (OTC) drug packing market to an extent.
For prescription medication, marketing and consumer choice play less of a role in determining what drugs are prescribed and taken as it is up to the physician. Still, the packaging of the pills can play a significant role in how a patient adheres to a regiment as it serves as the primary interface between the medication and user. Providing a more positive experience can help to incentivize proper use thus improving patient outcome. Pharmaceutical companies have to figure out what criteria and functions in a package are most conducive to the user experience, and the near future could hold some unique innovation in this area.
OTC medication is also a large chunk of the pharmaceutical industry, and the packaging differs greatly from that of the prescription drug. Here, the drug companies look to employ marketing tactics and influence consumer choice through the labeling and package design. Consumers browsing the shelves must use the brief shelf interaction with the medicine package to form their decision on which brand to buy. This could have an impact on what OTC drugs are successful on the market and which ones fail to make it. The role society plays in shaping the designs for both types of medication packaging will be explored through the social construction of technology (SCOT) framework.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Medication adherence, Social construction of technology

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Barker, Shannon
STS Advisor: Elliott, Travis
Technical Team Members: Cousins, Matthew

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