Every day, more than 130 people in the United States alone die from an overdose of opioids, which includes prescription painkillers and other addictive drugs. The rate of opioid abuse has been rising steadily since the 1990s and has developed into a serious public health problem since. Roughly 21-29 percent of patients prescribed painkillers end up misusing them, and 4-6 percent of those transition to heroin. Not all of this misuse is intentional, some people simply forget when they took their pills or how many to take and end up hurting themselves by accident. Additionally, due to the addictive nature of the drugs and the chronic pain they seek to solve, many people take more than necessary due to a dependency on them. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken steps to help this crisis, but by and large, misuse of opioids is still a rapidly growing problem in the United States. Project Bedrock seeks to help solve some of these problems.
Our team was inspired by previous hackathon-built automated pill dispensers, but we wanted to take it a step further with a tamper-proof system. Our capsule is pressurized, so upon anyone breaking through to access their pills at the wrong time, a change in pressure is detected and emergency services are notified. Our convenient app allows for scheduling, dosages, and data analytics from the perspective of a health care administrator.
The name Bedrock was inspired by the popular game Minecraft, in which Bedrock serves as the only indestructible material. It is located at the bottom of the earth and cannot be penetrated in the game. This connects to our project as it is meant to be tamper-proof and extremely durable to prevent misuse and abuse.
The Average Joe:
Joe gets up at 6:30AM to get ready for work. He brushes his teeth, takes his blood pressure medication, takes a shower, makes breakfast, leaves for work, works 8-12, drives to the local diner for lunch, takes another dosage, works 1-5, gets milk, bread, and eggs for the wife and kids at the grocery store, takes his third dosage, gets a haircut or goes out for a drink, and comes home for dinner. Sometimes Joe forgets to take his pills at some point during the day - he's a busy guy. With Bedrock, it can notify Joe when it's time to take his pills through its integrated phone app, so he can stay healthy without having to keep it always on his mind.
After the age of 50, Ethel started to become forgetful. She'd forget Sunday Bingo on the regular, mix up the names of her two grandchildren, and call the local Costco's cashier John when his name was actually Steve. After she turned 70, these effects became noticeably worse, potentially leading to dire consequences in terms of her medication. If Ethel forgets to take her pills, her lung condition may get worse due to the lack of prescribed remedy. Conversely, if Ethel forgets she's already taken her pills and attempts to take them again, she can overdose and end up in the hospital. Bedrock is here to solve both of these problems. It doesn't allow Ethel to take her pills before dosage time, and it provides convenient notifications when it's time to take medication so she doesn't forget.
Little Timmy is 3 years old. He likes putting things in his mouth still. If his mother leaves her bottles anywhere within reach, Timmy is at risk of accidentally swallowing or choking on pills that can harm him due to their strength and concentration. Bedrock makes sure that Timmy can't get to those pills, and even if he does, someone will be right there to save Little Tim.
On a darker note, Bedrock was designed with drug abuse in mind. Many people prescribed with high-strength painkillers rely on them for pain relief, but develop an addiction and take more than a healthy amount. This can lead to disastrous consequences, including long and expensive stays in the hospital, and potentially as bad as death. Bedrock only administers pills at recommended time periods, and in the case of an addict trying to break into the pillbox, it immediately alerts EMTs upon a break-in into the system.
Acetone ABS Slurry - used as internal sealant
Silicone sealant - used for the cap and as a failsafe
Pnuematics: ball valves, pex pipe, 1/8 and 1/4 inch NPT pipe
Raspberry Pi 3
Standard Servo Motors
Overall, our hardware list is simple, and we worked to maximize functionality out of few components. Our system is modular, so parts can be replaced and repaired, rather than having to replace the entire unit.
What it does
Bedrock can be explained in two parts: the security system and the dispenser system.
The chassis is made of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. We chose ABS because of its high tensile strength and excellent resistance to physical impact and chemical corrosion. Its high durability rating makes it difficult to physically break into the system in the event that an addict wants access to their pills at the wrong time.
The main compartment kept at a pressure of 20PSI, compared to atmospheric pressure's 14.7 PSI. Inside the compartment is a barometric (pressure) sensor that constantly reads the internal pressure in the container. If a user were to attempt to break the dispenser to gain access to their pills, the sealed compartment would be exposed to atmospheric pressure and drop in pressure. Once the barometer detects this pressure drop, it would immediately contact emergency services to investigate the potential overdose so they can be treated as soon as possible.
The dispenser can be timed with the interval a doctor sets based on the medication. To maintain the internal air pressure of the compartment, there is a two part dispenser to release a pill. There are two ball valves that can shut to be airtight. First, the innermost valve opens and releases a pill into a chamber. Then, that valve closes and the outermost valve opens. The pill is now accessible and the compartment has never lost any pressure throughout the process.
How we built it
We used a 3-D printer to make all ABS parts including the main enclosure and part of the release mechanism. We used an Acetone ABS slurry to seal the inside of the enclosure to make it airtight and ensure there is minimal fluctuation in pressure during the lifetime of the unit. Other than that, most parts are stock.
What's next for Bedrock
We hope to take Bedrock further on the software side and utilize IoT and wireless software to wirelessly control dosages and timing. Additionally we would like to utilize data analytics with user permission to see what proportions of people are taking their proper dosages at the right times, attempting to consume medication at incorrect time intervals, forget their medication, or attempt to break into their Bedrock device. With this data we would be able to communicate with the pharmaceutical industry and optimize concentrations of medicine for different people's memory periods. Through this, we can work with people's memory timing and patience to ensure proper consumption of potentially dangerous drugs.