Pillbox: The Benefits of Being Open About Drug Data

Pillbox Takes the Red Pill

The Pillbox team at the National Library of Medicine at NIH and a group of data processing experts created a next-generation system that reduced a labor-intensive multi-week process into an automated process that takes about 1 hour to run. Additionally, the software code that powers this new system is being open-sourced, so developers can more deeply integrate and utilize these pharmaceutical data and images. This effort provided the foundation for a program to address errors in this data that includes government, industry, and developers. Following Ignite, this team received $50,000 in phase II funding and dedicated time from their home Division to work on the next phase of their efforts.


Pillbox: Watch the 5 minute project presentation and pitch.


Project Summary

HHS drug labeling information is critical to addressing health challenges such as reduction of medication errors, improving adherence, EHR/PHR development, and supporting emergency personnel. Extending the reach of this data via innovative products and services created by health IT developers is critical in solving these challenges. Pillbox at the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health provides the first free and easy-to-use access to this valuable data set. In addition, Pillbox has led the creation a public-domain image library of over 7,000 high-quality pill images.

Previously, the complex process that creates the Pillbox data set took weeks to perform. For HHS Ignite, the Pillbox team and a group of data processing experts created a next-generation system that reduced the time-required to around 1 hour. Additionally, the software code that powers this new system is being open-sourced, so developers can more deeply integrate and utilize these pharmaceutical data and images. Developers can also use this code to access other high value data elements in the drug labels that are not part of Pillbox.

HHS drug labeling data contains numerous errors and inconsistencies, many related to a pill’s physical appearance. By providing access and encouraging non-subject matter experts to build innovative and beneficial clinical and consumer applications and services, Pillbox is obligated to actively address these quality issues. The open source code created through HHS Ignite will be used as the foundation to create an error tracking, notification, and data scoring system, directly engaging with the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies, and developers.

Team Members

David Hale (Project Lead), National Institutes of Health
Jennifer Dong, National Institutes of Health
Quynh Nguyen, National Institutes of Health
Ying Sun, National Institutes of Health
Florence Chang, National Institutes of Health

Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Florence Chang, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

HHS Ignite

HHS Ignite is the IDEA Lab’s incubator for Department staff with ideas on how to modernize government. Selected teams are introduced to startup methodologies for problem identification and project implementation. In the entrepreneurial spirit, Ignite projects are iterative, their impacts measurable, and their solutions scalable. This is one of 13 projects that participated in the beta year of Ignite which ran from June 2013 to February 2014.

Status update: 3 Months Later

As part of Ignite’s approach to evaluating it’s effectiveness, each Ignite team is asked to provide information on their project status three months following their pitch. The Pillbox team received $50,000 and dedicated time from their home division to work on the next phase of their efforts. According to the project lead: “Project funding came as a result of support and feedback of key FDA leadership on Pillbox’s shark tank at the 2/7 Ignite event and a meeting with Pillbox’s division Associate Director during the same event.”

Additional Information

 

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