Jaipur-based startup behind a mobile app that improves medication adherence among patients

When a doctor prescribes a medication for you, the timings and length of doses can be a bit confusing, especially if you’ve lost the prescription or accidentally forgotten to take a pill. These are some of the most common causes of poor adherence that could have dramatic side effects if patients have chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. That’s where Karma Dost comes in, a smartphone app that pushes you to take your meds on time.

“For a long time, the traditional model was that someone reminds us to take medicine and if he forgets… I forget too. We took that theme and said what would happen if we recreated this environment in a digital-first environment,” Amit Choudhary, co-founder and CEO of Dawaa Dost, describes the idea behind the Karma Dost app.

Medication adherence is a less discussed and often overlooked topic in healthcare. In fact, half of Americans with chronic conditions stop taking medication within a year of the initial prescription, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In India, although there is no scientific data available, experts say that the adherence rate is well below 10%, which is quite low.

A future update will see the option to scan the prescription by scanning the photo using the phone’s camera. (Image credit: Dawaa Dost)

“Most people in India take medicine for the first three days and then stop a 5-day course halfway through because they feel better,” he said, adding that people don’t often don’t stick to the prescription plan for fear of adapting to a new schedule and a lack of information about when to take medication (for example, some pills must be taken before a meal and others can be taken twice a day).

The concept of a medication reminder app like Karma Dost is simple: let your smartphone remind you when to take medications prescribed by your doctor without the help of a family member and ensure that the treatment plan is followed. The app allows you to create a list of your medications by uploading the prescription or simply typing the name of the medication. You can then schedule notifications on your phone when it’s time to take them exactly as prescribed by choosing how many days, weeks or months the pill should be taken and setting a specific time of day based on that. medication and your condition. treat for. Repeat this for each medication you take. You can indicate the form of the drug – tablet or capsule by its color and size, making it easy for users to add a drug if they can’t remember the name of the pill.

Once you’ve set a pill reminder, you can customize how you want the notification to be sent, through the app, as calls or as texts. When you receive an in-app notification or a reminder call, it’s an indicator that you’ve taken medication or missed the dose. Choudhary says 80-85% of users who use the app have opted in to receiving pill reminders in the form of calls. “On average, between 8 and 9:30 a.m., which is morning time per drug, we make 70,000 to 75,000 calls a day,” he said.

On the total user base, a large portion of Karma Dost app users are senior citizens. (Image credit: Dawaa Dost)

The app, which went live last year and is only available on Android-based smartphones, currently has more than 75,000 monthly active users and growing. Karma Dost app does not contain any ads or premium features that you have to pay to unlock. It’s a free app, and Choudhary has no plans at this time to turn Karma Dost into a “service”, a business model followed by many industry players to grow the database. users.

But what makes Karma Dost different from other medication reminder apps is the Karma feature and hence the name Karma Dost. If a user takes the medicine on time, say for the next seven days, they earn KD coins which can be used for social causes like planting a tree, sponsoring a girl’s education for a day, or feeding a cow.

Apple’s recent launch of a new Medications tool in the iPhone Health app has once again focused on medication non-adherence and the magnitude of this problem globally. While Choudhary welcomes Apple acknowledging the non-adherence to drugs and solving the problem in its own way, he said that Karma Dost is a better solution designed with India’s billion users in mind. Some may question the effectiveness of medication reminder apps and medication packaging services, but Choudhary claims that the adherence rate among Karma Dost users has actually improved by 40-50%.

Dawaa Dost, co-founded by Choudhary with Yash Harlalka and Anirudh Batwara in 2018, is an omnichannel pharmacy retail chain that aims to solve India’s massive health problems by making medicines available at affordable rates. The Jaipur-based startup mainly focuses on Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and also has platforms such as Medwiki which offers short treatment videos and Karma Dost.

Choudhary, who has worked with FMCG giant Procter & Gamble and online shopping platform Snapdeal in the past, says the Karma Dost app will continue to be improved with new features and experiences. For example, in the coming weeks the company plans to release a new feature where you can download the app for your parents, scan the prescription and leave their number and the WhatsApp chatbot will take care of the rest. This will simplify the reminder function, but without downloading the application on your phone.

The plan is also to add an improved in-app voice recognition feature that the company is building and the update will be released in the coming months. “In the past, we have tried to build voice search capability, but the challenge is that drug names in India are so complex that even highly educated people find it difficult to pronounce them correctly. So all types of machine learning models effectively fail because they need some degree of input quality to get what you’re saying,” he said.

Karma Dost is end-to-end encrypted, which means the company cannot read or access the data. Choudhary agrees that health data is critical and that data security is key to protecting patient privacy. The app will benefit from a two-factor authentication feature, which adds an extra layer of security to the authentication process by making it harder for attackers to gain access to a person’s medical history.

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