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A Patient-Centered Medication Manager: "Modular Remote Health Care System - Smart Medicine Kit"

The biomedical industry is one of the key forces in Taiwan's push towards globalization. To raise the competitiveness of the nation's biomedical industry, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs have jointly proposed the Taiwan Precision Health Industry Development Program. Through cooperation across ministries and the introduction of IoT and AI, the program is expected to promote precise prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and care systems, and will help to build a Taiwan-based precision health brand. NARLabs' Taiwan Instrument Research Institute (TIRI), under MOST, is proactively building up its interdisciplinary and integrated service platform for instrument technology R&D. TIRI has also collaborated with Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation's Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital to develop the "Modular Remote Health Care System - Smart Medicine Kit," which can remotely monitor and remind patients of their medications. In the future, the technology can also be used in telemedicine to reduce the travel of patients from remote areas. For this, the Smart Medicine Kit won the Clinical Innovation Award at the 18th National Innovation Awards in 2021.

Patients with chronic diseases may require long-term medication to treat and control their conditions, and therefore often need to travel to and from the hospital to obtain medication. In order to reduce patient distress and allow medical resources to be fully utilized, administrators set up a prescription request system that allows patients to obtain one month's supply of medication from nearby pharmacies for a period of three consecutive months. However, it was often found that patients with long-term prescriptions forget to take their medications on time or make mistakes in the interval, amount, and manner of medication administration. These mistakes are especially prevalent amongst the elderly without caregivers, and may lead to poor disease control and, in severe cases, even be life-threatening.

In view of this, Director Hsu Ren-Jun of the Cancer Center at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital proposed a smart medicine kit system that could integrate hospital resources. With assistance from TIRI, the idea could be realized, and the system could help patients solve medication-related problems.

Currently, most smart pillboxes or medicine kits on the market only have a reminder function. Director Hsu believes that this technology should be patient-centered, and therefore must have two main features: professional dispensing and group management. Based on this idea, TIRI developed the "Modular Remote Health Care System - Smart Medicine Kit," which incorporates patient privacy protection with Internet of Things (IoT) technology to allow health care workers to classify patients' medical records and treatment data. Each system has associated with it a dedicated pharmacist and registered nurse to assist patients. The system can kindly remind patients of their medication time and remotely update on their medication status in real time. In the case of forgetting to take medication on time or making mistakes in the medication interval, quantity, or method, the system will also promptly inform medical staff and patients' families. The system is not just a machine, but a smart medication manager offering care, relief, and peace of mind.

In rural areas, where it may be difficult to find a pharmacy under the National Health Insurance system, the Smart Medicine Kit can generate more value for medical services. It not only allows continuous prescription medication to be delivered directly to the patient's residence, saving them the trouble of traveling to and from the hospital, but in the future, can also offer remote consultation with a pharmacist. The Smart Medicine Kit is an interdisciplinary achievement that integrates medical resources and IoT technology to solve the medication problems that chronic disease patients are prone to. Therefore, it was recognized at the 18th National Innovation Awards in 2021, where it won the Clinical Innovation Award.

TIRI has built an interdisciplinary, integrated service platform for instrumentation technology R&D. Based on clients' ideas, a team of experts from TIRI verify requirements and set the specifications, then perform a full range of customized services such as system design, integration, and testing, finally verifying and validating the performance of the end product together with the client. Through this method of interdisciplinary collaboration, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital was able to develop the patient-centered "Modular Remote Health Care System - Smart Medicine Kit" to relieve those with chronic diseases from the hardships of travel and to impROVe the medical environment in remote areas.