uBox for Life : New Pillbox is Lifesaver
The Xbox is fun, but the uBox is a lifesaver. The device being tested in India now is an electronic pill box, similar to a traditional plastic medicine container. It has a number of small spaces inside, each used to measure the correct amount of medication a patient needs each day. With the uBox, the container itself keeps track of how many pills a patient receives.
With the uBox, though, the container itself keeps track. The box makes noise and flashes lights when it's time for a dosage, then locks the container for 24 hours. That way, patients won't have to keep track of when they last took a pill.
The uBox has enough room for two weeks of medication. Health care workers can refill it, and take a glance at how often their patients are taking their meds. A two week period is a lot shorter than the traditional six month wait for tuberculosis patients.
Treating that deadly disease is why the uBox is getting tested in India instead of the U.S., where it might be considered little more than a novelty. TB is almost extinct in the western world, but the World Health Organization reports the bacteria killed 544,000 people in Africa in 2005, and nearly as many in southeast Asia. Health workers say part of the problem is that patients who receive TB-fighting drugs don't take all of their medicines. That leads TB bacteria to mutate into drug-resistant strains, and that can infect and kill even more people.
The team from MIT that developed the uBox also developed the uPhone, which can be used alongside the pill box to measure a patient's temperature, weight and other information. It adds a level of comfort for patients too. Local health workers - the friends and neighbors of patients - collect the information, then turn it over to doctors.
The first training sessions of the uBox took place in January, with 1,000 boxes and uPhones hitting the streets of India in March. Health experts in India are watching the tests carefully, and there's been discussion with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about funding more uBoxes and uPhones.