The objects in our lives are changing, fast. They are getting smarter and our relationship with them has shifted.

Last night I asked my phone – just by speaking to it – to set an alarm, which still amazes me.

With new technological advancements like this, society is on the cusp of vast change. All aspects of how we live, work and go about our daily lives are likely to be affected by access to technology through our mobile devices.

Here at Cambridge Consultants, we think about how we can use technology to solve problems.

One of the big challenges facing society is that of an ageing population, with increased life expectancies and a prevalence of chronic illnesses, which is expected to place a huge burden on our healthcare systems. To compound the problem, patients often do not adhere to their medication regimens and may find it difficult to use their medical devices correctly, which results in poor outcomes and unnecessary costs.

Non-adherence has many contributing factors. Forgetfulness, procrastination and anxiety all play their part. But our current approach to this problem doesn’t seem to be working. Training from healthcare professionals can be infrequent and sometimes incorrect, paper Instruction for Use (IFUs) are overwhelming, poorly structured and may be ignored by patients. The fine print on labels is difficult for some patients to read and comprehend.

There have been several attempts to use technology to solve adherence and competence issues – a string of pill reminder apps have been launched in recent times – but none seem to have had a significant effect. They just don’t seem quite ‘intelligent’ enough; they can’t provide answers to questions or guide a patient through self-injection if they are anxious and stressed, for example. There is a dire need to increase patient engagement with these technology solutions, such that they can have the desired improvement in outcomes.

For a solution to this problem, perhaps we need to look to the near future where new technological advancements in voice recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) accessible through mobile devices will allow us to create engaging virtual personalities that can coach and motivate patients to adhere to their treatment regime.

To explore this idea, we’ve developed a concept called ASSIS.

ASSIS is software that is downloaded onto a mobile device. The ASSIS application uses the computational power, access to AI systems, voice recognition and high-resolution display of the mobile device to provide a human-like interaction with the user. Sensors embedded inside drug delivery devices are connected to the ASSIS software, creating a holistic experience. Patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) can input multiple treatments and prescriptions onto ASSIS and the software will generate a personalised treatment plan.

The ASSIS virtual assistant will provide patients with information and support them to effectively adhere to their treatment plan. ASSIS can proactively coach and motivate patients and guide them through the process of taking their medications.

For more emotive procedures like self-injection, ASSIS could reduce the burden on a patient by doing all the things that good HCPs do to calm a patient – showing compassion, explaining the procedure and distracting the user from pain. With the advancement in technology, the possibilities are endless.

There are some technical – and perhaps regulatory – hurdles to overcome before a solution like ASSIS can be deployed in the market. However, I believe the future where we will use software, systems and connected devices to help and support patients, improve their lives and reduce the burden on our healthcare system is not too far away.

A virtual assistant to help you take your medication
David Robinson
Head of Design