AWS Startups Blog

With Tricella, the Future of Family Caregiving Is an Easier Pill to Swallow

“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.” So goes an infamous ‘60s rock song. But for the millions of families and caregivers looking after their loved ones, keeping track of a prescription pill regimen can be a very confusing affair. Add to it the fact that many of our elders are reluctant to take their medicine—for reasons ranging from stubbornness to forgetfulness to thinking they feel better already and no longer need the pills—and you have a preventable health crisis that adds a sizable debt in avoidable cost to the healthcare industry each year.

Enter Tricella, a digital health start-up that launched in 2014, creating a smart pillbox and attendant app that can detect if a patient has taken their meds, connecting them with family members or caregivers who can then follow-up via phone or text message. Founded by Daniel Weng and based in Mountain View, California (with Asian headquarters in Taiwan), Tricella not only tracks the use of its contents, but also connects with a patient’s caregivers. As Weng puts it: “If my mom needs to take her pills at 8:00, she’ll get a reminder every 15 minutes. And if she still doesn’t take her pills at 9:00, I’ll get an escalated notification where I can easily text her, call her or send an audio record, without leaving the app.”

And while Tricella cannot track whether or not a patient has actually taken their prescriptions, Weng said that rather than acting as a nanny, his company is “in the business of helping those that want to get better, [not] for those that want to cheat the system.” Despite the size of the pill—be it for cholesterol, heart disease, bacterial infection or mental health—it has an outsized effect on the country’s health care services. “About 70% of patients don’t take their pills as prescribed, resulting in a $300 billion avoidable cost to the healthcare industry each year,” Weng said. By not keeping up with meds, patients with a chronic disease state might progress to the state of hospitalization or worse. “You might require surgery, as opposed to if you were on your meds, you could have avoided surgery entirely,” Weng said.

For that reason, Tricella made it a crucial function of the app to incorporate and emphasize the caregiver aspect into the notification process rather than simply catering to the patient. “We really want to get the family involved in the healthcare regimens of the patients,” he said. In the future, Tricella envisions pairing with pharmacies to refill prescriptions when medication runs low. But for now, the focus is on the family and friends that have to provide for the sick and elderly.

With approximately 43.5 million caregivers providing services to loved ones and the rate of the elderly expected to double in the next two decades, more and more American households can expect to look after a family member in the years ahead. With Tricella, such treatment and medication regimens can be a slightly less bitter pill for loved ones to swallow.

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.