Automated Pill Dispensers for older people

Taking medication is important to do precisely, and it is complex based on number of pills we take, and the prescribed sequence and frequency (scheduling!).  Sometimes its hard to know when it’s time to take our medication and Smart in Five has researched pill dispensers to see what is currently available.

1. Who needs automatic pill dispensers?

People who have challenges managing the number of pills, and the prescribed frequency of taking them.

This could be someone who takes more than 5 pills a day or someone who is in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  That is a lot of us, considering how widely we use medications, vitamins and supplements in our daily lives.  If you take more than 5 pills, you have a high likelihood of getting it wrong some of the time.

2.  What kind of products are available to help with medication management?

Automatic pill dispensers, automated pill dispensers, electronic pill boxes, automated pill boxes, wireless pillboxes, and automatic pill dispensers are all available on the market.

We can use technology with medication in our homes to:

  • Confirm correct medication quantity
  • Dispense quantity at the designated schedule
  • Notify and remind us if we do not take the pills; use visual and audio alerts
  • Only when needed, notify someone else if we need additional support (either central monitoring, or caregiver directly)

While managing medication while traveling is also challenging, first we have to handle our routine at home.

3. Where can I buy products to help dispense medication accurately and on time ?

Livi at Home.  This is by far the most mature product I could find, with wifi and cellular connectivity and battery backup.  Its fancy.  The pricing seems to incentive a monthly rental instead of purchase: monthly rental is$99 / month and a purchase more like $1,999 with payment plans available.  It holds 90 days of supplies with 15 different types of pills, it stores additional reminders for other dispensing.  Includes visual and audible alerts, text or email alerts to caregivers, refill alerts, reports and stats about medication and any other events.

Memo Box.  This is a up to 7 day pill box with a App for your phone.  Bluetooth enabled, this means it will communicate with your phone to provide updates on your progress / status (in case you can’t remember what you took), or remind you to take another pill.  This is the simpliest container / app interaction i could find – with Deluxe Memo Boxes available for $89.90 and the Vibrant for $49.90.  You may need to upgrade for more pills – there are 7 day and ‘exchange’ trays that have more complex compartments.  it’s not secure so it will only remind you not to take another dose, not prevent you.

MedReady. This is a secure mid sized flying saucer shaped device that keeps you from having access to medication outside of the 4 times per day it can be set to open.  It holds up to 28 doses of medication.  Some models of this device do communciate with MedReady’s data center and can notify caregivers via text, email or auto phone call when the medication is not removed from the device.  The base product MedReady 1700 comes in at $149 (with no connectivity / monitoring), you add a blinking light for version 1700FL for $159, for visual alerting  The pricing goes up based on connectivity Land line with blinking light $207, Cellular with blinking light $307.  If you want monitoring, you pay $16 / month for monitoring services through MedReady.

Med-E-Lert, by GMS.   Medication up to 6 times daily, 28 compartments, retains programming when changing batteries!, tamperproof to prevent overdosing, and louder alarm than older Med-E-Lert Products.  From $79.95 to $123.98 depending on where you get it.  You can’t buy it from Med-E-Lert, but they have an ecommerce partner, which is super overwhelming to shop from.  I bailed from the ecommerce experience just on premise.

MedQ.  Just take the flashing box! $69,95.  Well, if you take pills four times a day, you’ll need two boxes, for $139.90 as the combo price.   But still, pretty simple.  Square boxes, digital read out in the middle.  Meh.

e-pill.  They make automatic pill dispensers, and pill boxes with timers.  For the dispensers, they have a GLORIOUS product comparison that shows their automated pill dispenser products here.  Pricing made me blink wide-eyed: e-pill MedTime STATION automatic Pill Dispenser is $289.95 and looks giant and unmanagable.  e-pill MedTime PLUS automatic Pill Dispenser is $389.95 (sale from $595); I can’t really decide what it does better.  They have no monthly fees, and i’m reading a 12 page manual and I still don’t know what it does.  I found e-pill products here for $79 here and at that price it seems like it might be worth it.

Live Fine. Simple and well priced at $79.99.  28 doses, with room for up to 18 pills per dose!  The purchase link is here.

All of these are available on Amazon, under the search ‘automated pill dispenser’.  I like to sort by review, then price (high to low first to see the fancy, then low to high second to find my mid priced option).  Livi isn’t in here though because they are looking for direct rental / monthly subscriptions with customers.

4. When is this available ?

This information is as of May 2018.

5. Why is technology and medication a good idea ?

Because taking medication accurately and on time is hard.

Its especially hard if you have any cognitive or memory impairment, or just can’t remember things.  You can use a watch with reminders to maintain a schedule, but if you have multiple pills to take, this may not be enough to maintain order.

To find the right product as a solution, you need to consider:

Do you have simple medication needs?

This would mean you need a reminder, but you won’t inadvertantly take the wrong dose, and you take less than 10 pills per dose less than 5 times per day.  You have someone who can fill your dispenser once per week, or you can do it yourself.  You don’t need anything secure, but reminders and compartments help a lot.

PRODUCTS:  Memo Box, or any other under $100 solution with alarms will probably help you.  You could get a watch with fancy reminders and a plastic container kit for a $100 and do the same job.  See Watchminder for $70 as an interval alarm watch that is being used for lots of purposes including medication management, and ADHD behavior modification training.

Do you have moderate medication needs?

More pills, more often.  You need visual and audiable alarms.  You take between 5 and 7 pills  per dose, up to 2 times a day.   You have some human support to fill your dispenser once per week.  You don’t need a lot of reporting and monitoring, but you might take medicine twice if no one was watching.  You need a locked automated pill dispenser but probably not a lot of notification.

PRODUCTS:  Live Fine, MedReady, ePill simple.  Probably spend $100 here after accessories.

Do you have complex medication needs?

You probably will take the wrong pill, even though you want to do it completely independently.  You might take lots of the same doses at once.   You live alone and no one else supports you.  You need alarms, and assurance you can’t take the wrong pill, and a level of central support.  You need some type of notification either to a central team or to your caregiver when you don’t take medication.  You need a device with cellular, bluetooth, or wifi that can connect and centralize your info.

PRODUCTS: MedReady, Livi.  Probably spend at least $300 for a device, plus monthly fees for cellular and/or may require a land line.  Livi is $99 /  mo to rent the device, so you can see why they are gaining momentum, because if you have complex needs, $99 a month to not think about it seems like a great insurance policy.