“Remember to take your medicine!”

Poor medical adherence, especially for the elderly, is a perennial issue in the healthcare industry. Pillpresso’s (one of the residents of THE HANGAR by NUS Enterprise) mission is to tackle this and to make medical management a whole lot better. BLOCK71 interviews one of the co-founders of Pillpresso, Emily Low, on how their start-up came to be and their entrepreneurial journey so far!

Emily Low (NUS Business ‘14), Co-founder of medtech start-up Pillpresso

How did the idea for your business come about?

My co-founder Jia Loon is currently taking his medical degree and PhD at Duke-NUS. During his clinical attachments, he often met elderly patients facing health emergencies (e.g. stroke) due to poor medication adherence. Our team recognised that this is a global problem, and developing a relevant solution could create significant impact. We submitted this for Modern Aging (an accelerator programme by NUS Enterprise and ACCESS Health International). With the $50,000 that we eventually won in 2015, we decided to kick start this business.

How could Pillpresso potentially address this medical adherence issue — which has been a constant bugbear in the medical industry —in a better way than all the existing players/current solutions?

Fundamentally, medication adherence is a behavioural challenge. As a starting point, we are targeting elderly patients who are mostly compliant in taking their medicine but require help to take their medicines on time. Hence our goal is not to develop the most advanced medicine dispenser, but to develop a user-friendly product that the patient is ready to accept and that blends seamlessly into his/her existing routine, without any hassle.

We also have to work closely with healthcare providers across the entire value chain to adopt this solution, as we cannot solve the problem of medication adherence alone. Our success requires the coordinated effort and buy-in from healthcare professionals and caregivers alike.

Photo credit: Pillpresso Facebook

What has been the most satisfying moment in your business?

The satisfaction comes when caregivers and healthcare professionals — the people whom you have been developing the product for — see value in your product, and are willing to test it out.

What are some of your failures and what did you learn from them?

One of our key lessons was that what the clinicians need may be different from what our end users value or are willing to pay for. When our team won Modern Aging, we immediately reached out to an influential geriatric hospital to get their inputs on product development.

What our team didn’t consider enough was that it’s not the doctor or the pharmacist who would not be paying for our product. It was the end consumers themselves. When we sought the hospital’s inputs on product development, they were requiring advanced features from our medication device. These features jacked up the price, and were not what the elderly were willing to pay for.

We realised that it’s important to get inputs not just from those working in the hospital, but to also speak to caregivers, the elderly and those who work in community healthcare. We were able to uncover new insights about our target patients and share these with our hospital partners — insights which they had not known previously.

Do you believe there is a formula to be a successful entrepreneur and why?

Entrepreneurship is tough. You have to deeply believe in the mission and in the value of what you’re doing to justify the late nights, emotional rollercoasters and setbacks that you will face. Possessing the drive towards excellence is necessary as well.

What was your most memorable moment at THE HANGAR?

I enjoy the camaraderie among fellow entrepreneurs at THE HANGAR. As we are all experiencing the same journey together, I can go to them for support and advice when needed, and trust that they can relate.

Pillpresso is working with Yong-En Care Centre (a non-profit organisation) to raise S$10,000 on GIVE.asia for the low-income elderly in Chinatown.

100% of the funds raised will be used to sponsor the medication devices for the low-income elderly who need help with taking medicines on time.In return, Singtel has offered to match every dollar donated (up to $10,000). With every dollar you donate, your contribution will now double. To contribute, visit give.asia/pillpresso

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