Look who's talking. Academic research has resulted in a pill bottle smart enough to notify patients that it's time to take their medication or remind them if they missed a dose. The bottle also can automatically let pharmacies know when to prepare refills and inform physicians just how compliant patients are so therapy can be adjusted accordingly. "Accurate tracking of drug compliance is essential for many conditions," says the bottle's inventor Emil Jovanov, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. "Most medications require precise timing, and missed or delayed doses reduce the effectiveness of the drug."

The patented technology, which is expected to be available commercially as soon as 2015, also may help hospitals avoid penalties related to hospital readmission rates for certain disease states, as specified in the Affordable Care Act. The smart bottle has the potential to reduce medication confusion — one of the top reasons readmission rates are high. "The system allows automatic and close tracking of adherence of patients, which can certainly reduce readmission rates," Jovanov says.

The bottle works like this: A built-in sensor detects when the bottle has been opened and calculates the number of pills or amount of liquid remaining. This information is sent wirelessly through a smartphone or home gateway to a central server at AdhereTech, New York City, the startup bringing the smart pill bottle to market. "Our server then analyzes the data, which essentially tell us how much medication patients took and when they took it," says CEO Josh Stein. The system can detect discrepancies, such as whether a dose was missed or too much or too little was taken. During optimal dosage time, the bottle glows blue, reminding the patient that now is the time to take the dosage. Once optimal dosage time has passed, the bottle beeps and flashes red.

"This is when a patient would get the second form of intervention — a reminder phone call, text message or email," Stein says.

The bottle is currently in trials to measure its effect on readmission rates at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College and Community Heart and Vascular Hospital.