Author: Alaina Gallagher, Community Outreach, Dose Health
Medication management can be one of the biggest barriers to independent living. For individuals with disabilities, medications can be one of the most important factors in keeping them healthy and safe, but are often one of the most difficult factors to manage. Because of the difficulties associated with filling, remembering, and taking medications, assistive technologies like smart medication dispensers are effective solutions to aid with medication management. Smart medication dispensers keep people on track with taking the right medications at the right time and provide peace of mind to loved ones and caregivers by keeping them informed on how well the individual is managing their medications.
A smart medication dispenser is a secure pill box that automatically dispenses medications on schedule and tracks adherence information to indicate how well a person is managing their medications. At the scheduled time, the medication dispenser will alert an individual it is time to take their medication through alarms or flashing light. The individual will respond by dispensing their medication from the device in order to turn off the reminders. The dispenser is set up to only dispense one compartment at a time. The compartments can be pre-filled by a careteam to ensure the correct medications are dispensed at the scheduled time. Most smart med dispensers can be locked to prevent someone from manually going into the device and taking the wrong meds.
Apart from automatically dispensing the correct medications at the correct time, another feature that makes smart medication dispensers “smart” is their ability to track adherence information. With the tracking, they can send data to caregivers about how well a person is managing their medications. Most of the devices can track when a person has or has not dispensed their medications, so a caregiver can respond if a medication is ever missed. Some devices can generate more in-depth data to show if someone is tampering with the machine which can help prevent potential medication confusion or abuse.
Smart medication dispensers are ideal for anyone who is struggling to take their medications as prescribed. People of all ages greatly benefit from taking the correct medications. Beyond the obvious health benefits of properly managing medications, smart medication dispensers also allow people more independence and control as opposed to relying entirely on someone else, such as a direct support professional, to be in their home to give medications.
For individuals living in a residential setting, using smart med dispensers allows them to be more involved with their med pass and gain independence. The individual can self-administer while maintaining the safety net that staff will be alerted if medication has not been taken. Because smart med dispensers are automated, individuals don’t have to worry about remembering which medications they need and what time they need them when traveling outside the residence (i.e. to visit family members, or go on vacation) as the dispenser will administer the correct medications during their usual scheduled time.
One example of a smart medication dispenser changing someone’s life is Patty’s story. Patty and her mother Betty are currently using the Dose Flip to help Betty stay on track with her medications. Prior to obtaining the medication dispenser, Betty was at the point where she was forgetting her meds so frequently, Patty was concerned they would have to move her out of her home. Now, Betty has been using the device for three years and has had a consistent medication adherence rate of 99%. Patty reports, “I took her into the doctor, and the doctor actually said she’s healthier now (age 90) than she was at 88 or 87…you just cannot not take your pills, it won’t let you.” Thanks to assistive technology, Patty can have the peace of mind her mother is safe, while Betty is able to maintain her independence and continue to live in her own home.
Dose Health is a Minnesota-based company that provides medication reminder and management services. To address the issue of medication non-adherence, Dose Health created assistive technology solutions to help people safely manage medications for themselves, their loved ones, or people they care for. Dose Health is a provider through all Minnesota Medicaid Home and Community-Based Waiver programs, allowing access to services for all individuals enrolled in a waiver program.
Visit the Tech Tools section of the TRC Library to find more information on assistive technology devices like smart medication dispensers.
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Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.