Apothewell, a tenant of the Little Rock Technology Park downtown, expects to launch its iOS mobile application in early July. The app is designed to help caregivers and their charges better manage complex medication regimens.
The startup is the brainchild of founder and CEO Daniel Sharp, an Air Force veteran with a degree in computer science from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He worked as a developer at Acxiom for nearly 20 years before striking out as a freelance developer for the past six or seven years.
Sharp is a caregiver to his 32-year-old stepson, Philip, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at age 9 that left him with a severe seizure disorder. Philip takes 20-plus pills every day and has taken pills up to four times daily, Sharp said.
Sharp has been one of his caregivers for the past 11 years, and the idea that led to Apothewell came from that experience. He started turning that idea into a startup three years ago.
After a few years of being a caregiver, he said, he realized that managing Philip’s medication was difficult for many caregivers.
He found incomplete solutions to this problem: smart pill cases and mobile apps that remind people to take their medications/ Apothewell’s “full solution involves a marriage between your smartphone and a physical device,” i.e., a pill case.
“The smartphone is the conduit in between the cloud and the physical device. So when it’s time to take your medications, it’s your smartphone that alerts you, lets you know that it’s time,” Sharp said. “But it continues to alert you until you interact with a physical device. … It’s the connection between these two that’s unique.”
At first, that interaction will look like the primary user — in this case, Philip — checking off within the app that he’s taken his medication. Further automation as well as an Android app are planned.
What’s also unique is that Apothewell is set up to benefit both users and their caregivers. Caregivers will receive notifications when users take their medication and, after a certain amount of time, if they fail to do so.
Notifications will be sent every 10 minutes, up to six hours. “It’s a buzz. Doing that every 10 minutes is, I mean — there’s no two ways about it — it’s annoying,” Sharp said. “But we very intentionally have built this application for people who have a complex medication regimen and are struggling” and would rather be annoyed than miss taking their medications.
The notifications can be paused, but only temporarily — for example, for two hours if the user is otherwise occupied and not able to access their pill case.
Other features of the app include refill reminders and pill case management.
Refill reminders are based on how many days’ worth of medication the user has, not just how many pills they have. Sharp said these work better than reminders from pharmacies that don’t account for variables. Those variables can include the user having extra medication because they had a hospital stay and weren’t allowed to bring in outside medication or a user switching prescriptions and having leftover pills as well as a new refill time.
The other feature is a visual representation of how the user’s pill case should be loaded based on their regimen.
“That is our feature set. So smart alerts, refill reminders, pill case management, and then we wrap caregivers around all of that,” Sharp said.
Sharp said he has not raised outside capital yet, but he has raised from friends and family $55,000 of the more than $300,000 that it will take to bring his app to the market. He said he’ll have to raise outside capital later, to scale his business, but he wants to establish a record of generating revenue first.
As of last week, a Kickstarter campaign that is supporting the startup’s marketing efforts had raised more than $18,000.
In addition to Sharp, Apothewell employs a chief marketing officer, a media director, a designer, a developer and two part-time quality assurance workers. It also has three interns from Central High School in Little Rock.
A 30-day free trial will be offered when the app launches. A user can then pay $2.99 monthly, or $29.99 annually, for a solo option. User-and-caregivers subscriptions are $9.99 per month, or $99.99 per year, and that is charged only once to either the user or a caregiver, regardless of how many caregivers have the app.