TECHnically Speaking: Medication Management
Medication management is another challenge faced by many older adults and caregivers. It can be tricky to manage taking multiple medications at different times of the day. Cognitive issues can make remembering to take medications even more difficult. But, in our ever improving technological world, there are many innovative solutions helping to make medication management easier. Below, we review six of the most popular products in the industry.
The AdhereTech medication management system uses “smart” pill bottles in place of standard pill bottles. The AdhereTech system is integrated with a pharmacy’s system and does not require any setup. AdhereTech sends medication reminders through text messages or phone calls when a dosage is missed. AI is used to identify things like patterns of adherence. The system provides personalized support for refills and medical issues. Caregivers can also sign up for text/phone notifications.
If there is an issue requiring the assistance of the pharmacy, AdhereTech will send a notification requesting a phone call for the user. Nurses and pharmacists are also available through the AdhereTech system to store and view users’ health information, and provide information about medications.
AdhereTech partners with established healthcare companies and does not sell direct to consumer. It’s always free for patients, and is paid for by large healthcare companies. AdhereTech is currently used for many of the largest specialty medications, and it’s distributed from nearly every major specialty pharmacy in the United States. If you are interested in using AdhereTech, we recommend contacting AdhereTech and/or your pharmacy to see if your pharmacy is a current partner.
The Hero system includes a pill dispensing machine that connects to an app. The machine can store up to 10 different kinds of medications, and holds a 90 day supply of pills. To program the machine, users enter their medication regimen through the app. The machine notifies the user when it’s time to take medications. Phone or text reminders can also be set up. If medications aren’t taken within 15 minutes, another notification will be sent. The device will also notify the user when a medication is running low so refills can be ordered.
The Hero app provides information about medications and can analyze medication lists to find interactions. It also allows you to store other health information like, notes about symptoms, weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. Caregivers can also be added through the app and receive notifications.
Hero also provides pharmacy and medication delivery services through Hero Fill. The machine can detect when users are running low on pills and will notify the pharmacy. Medications will be delivered to the user’s home, and there are no delivery costs.
There are two different plans to choose from, at either $29.99/month or $99.99/month with a $99 activation fee. Both plans require a 1 year commitment. The higher priced plan includes additional monitoring features, including enhanced follow-up support and offline monitoring. You can purchase Hero through their website.
TheMedisafe app allows users to store a medication list and set reminders to take medications. Medications can be entered manually or imported from Apple Health Records, a pharmacy or clinic. When medications are entered, the app allows users to store a number of details about those medications, making life easier in the future. Medisafe can store the dosage, frequency, time of day it is taken (setting the reminder alarm), the appearance of the pill, how many pills are left (with the option to set a reminder when you have X pills left), the prescription number, and the condition the medication is for. The app allows the user to mark whether or not the medication was taken, or reschedule them for another time.
The app provides a wealth of knowledge about each medication, including videos about how to take it, possible side effects, what to do if the user misses a dose, symptoms to watch out for, and how to store it. It will also notify the user of drug interactions.
Medisafe allows users to store other medical information besides just medications, including measurements (like such as vitals and lab results), appointments, and doctors’ information. There is also a diary to help track things like side effects, or other concerns the user may want to address with his/her doctor.
This app is helpful if there are family members and/or friends who are looking for peace of mind. Medisafe allows users to add a Medfriend, who can receive text messages, emails, or phone calls if medications are not marked as taken. Users can also pull up a report of weekly adherence, which can be helpful for family and/or friends to review.
Medisafe is a free app that you can download through the app store on your phone.
MedMinder is a “smart” pill box with a built-in cellular connection that does not require internet connection or a phone line. Users can set audio and visual reminders. If medications are not taken on time, the service will call the user. If the medications are still not taken after the phone call notification, a caregiver can receive an email, text or phone alert.
There are four models of MedMinder that allow the user to choose whether he/she wants locking features and/or medical alert services. The locking feature locks all compartments except the one for that day. The medical alert allows the user to push a button and connect to MedMinder’s emergency monitoring center.
The MedMinder is filled manually, unless the user opts to participate in the MedMinder pharmacy, which will deliver medications already organized in trays that can be placed right into the machine. The MedMinder pharmacists will take care of transferring prescriptions. Copays and insurance coverage will stay the same. MedMinder will also contact the doctor’s office for refills.
The costs for each of the four models of MedMinder range from $39.99/month to $64.99/month depending on which features you want, and are shown in the image below. There is no extra cost to enroll in the MedMinder pharmacy aside from your copay. You can order the MedMinder pill dispenser and complete the pharmacy enrollment form on their website.
Pillo is like a combination of Alexa and Hero. Themed dispensing machine is similar to Hero, but has the added bonus of a personality! The system offers medication management for up to 28 doses of medication, including reminders, refill alerts, and caregiver permissions. Pillo goes beyond medication management by also serving as a companion for users, and can tell you the weather, time, and other general knowledge. Pillo even has a cute face on the display!
Pillo’s use of AI makes this system more advanced than most of the others out there. Facial recognition software is used to ensure that medication and health information is shared only with the intended user. The device can also recognize the user’s voice and gets more familiar with preferences over time.
The Pillo app allows users to see their medication schedule and track health information. Family and professional caregivers can also access this information if given permission. Caregivers can monitor the user’s health remotely through alerts and video calls.
The cost of Pillo is not listed on their website, and it does not seem to be a direct to consumer product for purchase at this time. You can contact Pillo through their website for more information about cost and how to purchase a system.
PillPack is a medication delivery service run by Amazon. PillPack sorts medications by day and time into a packet that the user just tears open and takes. Each packet is labelled with the time, day, date, and names/dosages of the included medications. The packets can include vitamins and over-the-counter medications, as well. Other items, such as inhalers, creams, and testing supplies, can be delivered with the rest of your medications through PillPack. The box containing the pill packs has a label that includes the list of medications with a picture of each, the dosage and quantity, and instructions for taking the medication. There is a QR code on the box that you can scan for more information.
To enroll, PillPack requires a list of your medications, your doctors’ information, and insurance information. Pharmacists will handle transferring prescriptions. Once the user’s account is set up, PillPack will work directly with the doctors and insurance company on an ongoing basis to address issues and make adjustments if prescriptions change. Refills will be set up automatically. PillPack pharmacists are available 24/7 for support.
Although PillPack doesn’t have a “smart” medication box or pill dispenser, it is very easy to use, and offers many of the same benefits without an in-home technology device. The delivery feature of PillPack may also be desirable to many people, and is not offered by most of the other products on this list.
The PillPack app that allows users to set pill reminders, talk to a pharmacist, manage medication lists, and track shipments.
PillPack is cost-effective. There are no delivery costs or monthly fees for PillPack. Users just pay the cost of over-the-counter medications, insurance copays, and out-of-pocket costs, which is what they would pay at their local pharmacy. You can sign up for PillPack on their website.
It can become overwhelming to manage a medication regimen. For some people, difficulty managing medications may lead to the hiring of a paid nurse or caregiver, or even a move to a facility that can better handle medications. But technology and innovation are helping to address the difficulties around managing medications in a variety of ways.
For people who don’t want or need a device to organize multiple medications and/or just want to receive reminders and support, Adheretech or Medisafe should do the trick. For those who need help with organization, in addition to reminders and support, but aren’t super comfortable with technology, PillPacks or Medminder are good options. PillPacks, MedMinder, and Hero offer pharmacy services with medication delivery, which may be a desirable feature for many people. Hero and Pillo are the most technologically advanced of the group, and Pillo has the added bonus of a home assistant. Hero and Pillo also have a sleeker appearance then MedMinder. For a more detailed comparison of these systems, review the chart below.