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Forget Your Meds? – There’s an App (or Vending Machine) for That!

What if I told you that one of the most prevalent reasons for an unsuccessful course of drug therapy isn’t due to what’s in the pill bottle, but what’s on the pill bottle? It’s an unopened lid. As a nation we have an epidemic of ‘not taking what we were prescribed in the prescribed dosage.’ And like any epidemic, it has serious consequences.

Every year, prescription medication non-adherence (not taking medication at the right time, dosage, or simply not taking it at all) is responsible for more than 120,000 unnecessary patient deaths and $290 billion in unnecessary healthcare spending each year in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, non-adherence is a much broader issue than many people realize:

  • After seeing their doctor, 20-30% of patients never fill their prescriptions
  • Even if they fill their prescription, 50% of patients do not adhere to their medication

Medication isn’t going to help if it isn’t taken as directed. Why is non-adherence such a large issue?

  • Patients forget to take their dosage
  • Patients take the wrong dosage level
  • Patients think the cost of the medication is too high
  • Patients get confused about which medication to take or when to take it

Many innovative technology providers have developed tools and devices to improve patient education and adherence. Below are three that I find particularly interesting:

  • Vending Machine – There’s a point-of-care based vending machine that dispenses top-selling medication. It automates a relatively manual process by dispensing the medication prescribed by the doctor in less than 30 seconds, provides the ability to set up automatic refills, and prints patient education material. In addition to improved adherence, it also allows clinics to immediately know when their medication samples are either recalled and/or expired. It’s a convenient and innovative way to ensure patients fill their prescriptions immediately.
  • Dispenser – An at-home medication dispenser (about the size of a small radio) is designed for patients that are on multiple, complex medications – which can often lead to confusion. It’s easily loaded with multiple medications and dispenses the right dosages at the right time. The device also gives positive reinforcement to highlight patients’ progress with adherence and has direct linkage with live medical advisors.
  • SmartPhone App – This app visually identifies thousands of prescription medications by crowdsourcing the screening and documentation of thousands of pills in multiple formularies. It’s building a wealth of information designed to improve adherence. Patients, doctors or caregivers can identify a particular pill by name and strength, screen for drug interactions and access other educational information around the medication by simply taking a picture of their pills.

It’s been said that there is nothing as expensive as a bad decision. Failure to adhere to a prescribed course of drug therapy incurs both health and economic costs, both for the patient and for society. These and other innovations are using technology to do what it does best – enable the individual to overcome limitations. In doing so they create a new channel for reaching the patient.

What technology do you use to stay on top of your medications? Let us know in the comments.

Category: Healthcare, Medical Devices
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    Comments [3]

  1. Where can I find the at home dispenser and what are the associated costs?

  2. Any idea which companies are currently making medicine vending machines already?


  3. Darryl and Gary:

    While there are many at home dispensing solutions on the market, the particular at home dispenser I was referring to is StentiCare’s PillStation. http://www.senticare.com/pillstation_aboutus.php.

    Please contact your doctor for more information and/or guidance on the at home solution that would be best for your particular situation. I hope this helps!

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