Hero — a medication adherence system consisting of a countertop device, refill service, and connected app — has launched today to consumers on the back of $12 million in Series A funding.
The three-pillar platform is built for patients as well as their caregivers, and looks to reduce the stress and difficulty that each side faces when daily drug regimens begin to escalate, Kal Vepuri, founder and CEO of Hero, told MobiHealthNews.
“Medication management and medication nonadherence [are] two incredibly complex and challenging problems that impact not only a growing number of people today, but even a growing population of caregivers themselves. What we mean to do with Hero is take a lot of the friction, stress and frustration out of medication management with the goal to improve health outcomes, improve the overall relationship with the family when someone becomes a chronic disease patient.”
Hero’s connected, passcode-protected countertop device automates medication storage, dispenses whole pills of any FDA-compliant size and gives auditory adherence reminders. It includes a system to make intelligent refill decisions and, with the user’s consent, orders replacement medicine that is filled by Hero’s pharmaceutical partners and delivered directly to the home.
Vepuri explained that both of these components are supported by the Hero iOS and Android App, which he said was designed to be an accessible way for patients and caregivers to monitor their medications and communicate between each other.
“The application is not just for users and the patients themselves, but it’s also for the caregiver,” he said. “The user benefits from getting alerts and reminders through the app. It also allows the user to change the regimen, to track refills, to track general inventory on hand of each medication and additionally receive notifications through the app, and communicate with their caregiver as well. The caregiver, when authorized by the patient, allows them to receive notifications and reminders as well. It also gives them direct connectivity to the patient in the event that a patient is late on a dose.”
Hero is currently being sold direct to consumer, at a subscription price of $19.95 monthly for two years and $9.99 monthly afterward, or at an outright price of $299 plus a one-year pre-paid subscription valued at $120. However, Vepuri said that the service is open to additional sales models once it is established.
“Our focus at launch is the direct to consumer channel — we call it direct to caregiver because we view ourselves as a caregiver empowerment company,” Vepuri said. “That’s how we start … but there’s a number of different channels we’re exploring and have heard interest from, but we’re trying to be focused coming out of the gate.”
The company is primarily backed by Brainchild Holdings, with additional support from Box Group, Third Kind Venture Capital, Refactor Capital. and Spider Capital. A slew of individual investors have signed on as well, including Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant, Greycroft cofounder Alan Patricof, former NBA Commissioner David Stern, Away President Jen Rubio, Elderplan Chairman Brad Fluegel and ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman.
What’s the impact
Speaking from personal experience as a caretaker for his mother, who was a physician herself, Vepuri described medication adherence as a “very complex problem” that extends beyond remembering to take a pill.
“There’s a psychology around knowing that people are engaged with your medication regimen, so including the caregiver and knowing there’s transparency there improves adherence,” he said. “Knowing that all your medication is in one place and you have inventory on hand improves medication adherence.”
It’s also a challenge that affects millions of older or chronically ill Americans, he continued.
“From a statistics perspective, you’ve got over 140 million in America who suffer from a chronic disease, over 70 million suffer from two or more. These individuals have taken a median of six to seven different medications from two or more prescribing physicians, their regimens are incredibly complex, their prescription changes at least once a quarter, usually two to three times a quarter. So, it’s a challenge that’s not just complex, but arduous and time consuming.”
By offering an adherence platform that takes a more holistic, closed-loop approach to medication management and adherence, and then pairs it with the transparency and accountability components that come from the caretaker app, Vepuri said that his service has an opportunity to do what others so far have not.
“There have been a lot of notification devices, mail-order systems, even home nursing providers, and then some combination of different formats of that to try to solve the problem,” Vepuri said. “We tried everything and nothing worked … so [Hero] was designed by people who had this challenge, and we manifested it through engineering efforts and other efforts to make it come to life. The approach that we took was not putting stakes in the ground, but rather letting the growing community of focus group users that were both patients and caregivers to provide input into effectively every detail of the system.”
What’s the trend
Despite Vepuri’s optimism Hero’s approach has a substantial market of medication adherence devices to compete with.
These offerings come in a number of shapes and forms, from stand-alone medication adherence apps to smart pillboxes to social adherence robots. Digital pharmacy and refills services are also on the up and up — just this summer, for instance, virtual pharmacy PillPack was acquired by Amazon.