Image by Jacob Dwyer

The ROI on Design for Healthcare

Pillpack vs. Proteus

Proteus Digital Health

Here is the current description of the Proteus product from their website:
  • It’s expensive! The price of the medication is $1,650 a month, 30 times as the cost of the medication alone without the sensors. I am not sure that it’s really a feasible or affordable solution for individuals who might need to take anywhere from 15–20 pills a day, and those other medications haven’t even been approved yet!
  • It’s inconvenient! Who wants to wear a patch on their torso all the time? What a pain in the neck (or torso)!
  • It’s Big Brother! As described by one psychiatrist: “Patients who have a lot of paranoia might be uncomfortable with the idea of a medicine that is transmitting signals. The patient may be afraid to take it.’’ Besides, as I have pointed out earlier, a missed medication dose noticed after the fact doesn’t really address the core problem of how to help a patient take his/her medications.


Then there’s Pillpack, which fixes the parking sign problem of medication adherence:

There is a lot of controversy about the ROI on design, but the ultimate fate of the two companies tells a pretty good story about that ROI.

Epilogue for Pillpack

Pillpack was bought by Amazon for just under 1 billion dollars in 2018.

“On the earnings call, Amazon told analysts it liked the way Pillpack built up its personalized approach to e-commerce — a trait Amazon values highly.

The company has a really highly differentiated customer experience, and they’ve done a great job getting to the size and scale that they’re at today. We think that, working together with them we can expand on that in the future”

Epilogue for Proteus

Which product, Proteus or Pillpack, do you think is a more user-centered solution for supporting medication adherence?

I tweet and blog about design, healthcare, and innovation as “Doctor as Designer”. Follow me on Twitter and sign up for my newsletter.



Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, Physician, Designer, Researcher. #learninghealthsystems; #design for #ai; and the maker movement

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Doctor as Designer

Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, Physician, Designer, Researcher. #learninghealthsystems; #design for #ai; and the maker movement