Automatic Electronic Pill Dispensers
Providing Safety, Security and Peace of Mind
The numbers are shocking. What’s more shocking is that they are likely understated. According to the Center for Applied Research Solutions (CARS), 12 to 15 percent of all instances where persons 65 and older seek medical attention (doctors’ appointments, ER visits, clinic visits) are due to prescription medicine misuse. The cited report – found in the The Elderly and Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse by Linda Basca – combines numbers from cases regarding accidental misuse and cases regarding deliberate abuse.
Prescription drug abuse and misuse by seniors cost Medicare $289 in 1989 – 20 years ago. Given the fact that the percentage of seniors in society continues to increase and that cases of senior drug abuse is grossly understated, the cost is significantly greater now.
And that’s only numbers. The real impact is on the seniors and their families in terms of suffering, side effects, prolonged recovery periods and preventable deaths. Taking the wrong medication, or the wrong dosage at the wrong time, or forgetting it altogether is an enormous problem among seniors.
Roughly, one in five cases of medical intervention is merely to address a problem that began with drug misuse. And that’s a conservative estimate.
The number one measure to prevent this is patient education. Understanding the dosage, the timing, the expectations of taking the meds properly and what happens when the meds are taken improperly is key. For seniors, it’s doubly important, as they are more prone to confusion and forgetfulness than those in younger age categories.
Families and support staff likewise need to be familiar with all the prescriptions, which can be numerous. Assuming the elderly patient will do the right thing in all instances is a foolish assumption.
But education cannot help if forgetfulness, absent-mindedness or recklessness overwhelms the person taking the medicine. This is where a daily routine and coping devices come in.
The Classic Pill Planner
Probably the most common coping device found is the familiar plastic pill dispenser with the hinged lids and Mon-Tues-Wed-Thu-Fri-Sat-Sun stamped on top. These help greatly, and offer peace of mind to patients and their families when faced with a multitude of medications and a multitude of doses at different times.
The plastic medication dispenser is an excellent, inexpensive product.
But technology has brought us a host of improvements on this basic idea, offering a greater degree of safety and convenience than ever before. Electronic, programmable medication dispensers have features that the plastic pill box can’t compete with. For seniors with dementia and other forms of memory dysfunctions, these new devices can be a big part of maintaining independence, and not having to have a caregiver dispense medication.
Choosing the Best Pill Dispenser
The best pill dispensers come with audible alerts, telling the user when the pills are ready to be taken, refill reminders and locking lids to prevent accidental – or intentional – misuse of prescription meds.
Below is a list of recommended automatic pill dispensers. Before purchasing one, consider who will be using it and their competency, both now and in the future. It should be noted that these are strictly for pills and capsules. They do not dispense medication in liquid, suspension, spray or ointment form.
Nearly all of the models shown below have alternate models that might have different features than the one listed, or may have opted out of certain features to reduce cost. The best part is that these pill dispensers are all available online and can be shipped directly to your doorstep.
The 7 Best Electronic Pill Dispensers
This pill dispenser is described as the “ultimate in medication management.” It is pretty impressive.
The device can be programmed to automatically dispense medication for 28 straight days. Up to 18 pills can be stored in the high-capacity slots, so refilling the unit frequently – which would take away from the convenience – is done away with in most instances.
There are six interchangeable dosage rings to accommodate split dosages and irregular dosages. This is also a safety feature to prevent accidental double-dosing. Templates and a fast-fill loading carousel help take the tedium out of stocking the device, ensuring that pills are dropped in the right slots every time.
Here’s where the Livefine Automatic Pill Dispenser earns its keep: It has programmable alerts, both audio and visualI, that beeps and flashes LED lights when it’s time to take the medications. Alerts can be programmed for up to six times a day. When it’s time to dispense medication, the unit flashes and/or beeps and will keep doing so until the dispenser door is flipped open.
When the time is not right for taking medication, the unit locks down and cannot be easily forced open. An LED screen provides time of day, the medication and the dosage in an easy-to-read display.
It is important to note that surplus medications should be kept in their original pill bottles, and those containers should be stored out of sight and out of the mind of those who could be harmed by taking the medications by accident. It does no good to store the original pill bottles in the same cabinet as the automatic pill dispenser if accidental dosing is a concern.
Some users report that small pills sometimes get stuck in the delivery system, and that the instructions seemed hard to understand. The company has posted videos on You Tube to help with set-up and programming.
“Who was that?”
“Oh, the e-Pill machine. It’s time for Dad to take his medicine. I’ll call him in a minute.”
That conversation is likely to happen for users of the e-Pill Med Smart Plus. The device can remind users or their caregivers by text, e-mail or robocall that the time has arrived for taking medications.
Not only that, but remote users can monitor the dosing history by smartphone, making this device useful in clinical studies.
The device itself also sends out a loud and long alarm that you can’t ignore, and it won’t shut off until the pill door is opened. There is also an early-dispense function that allows the patient to retrieve medications beforehand, if he or she knows they won’t be home when the next dosing time arrives.
It is programmable for 28 days at a time. The LCD readout is large and easy to read, and provides information about the current dose as well as previously taken medications.
It also has battery back-up for power outages.
Bluetooth is another example of a good idea – wireless technology – being made better. In this case, Bluetooth is a handy way to program and operate an automatic pill dispenser.
The GMS Bluetooth Automatic Pill Dispenser adds another level of security and covenience to the process. While it has a similar alarm system that activates up to six times a day with beeps and lights, it can also deliver the same alarm to a smart phone via Bluetooth.
This would be handy for seniors who still have the ability to use a smart phone. Otherwise it would be a wasted effort.
The customer can download the Lebox app from the Google Play Store or from Apple, and can then use the app to program the dispenser and to monitor the dispensation of medications, as well as any missed doses. The unit can be programmed independently of a smart phone.
The device can be filled/programmed for a month at a time, and when extra loading trays are purchased, there is the ability to have another month’s meds ready to load instantly.
Most users left positive reviews, but one mentioned that the Bluetooth system had a limited range, and therefore there was no way to send an alert to a phone that was out of range, such as a caregiver’s phone.
If this sounds like a feature you would really appreciate, then the next device on the list should be worthy of your attention.
Another product from e-Pill, this one lacks the bells and whistles of the Med Smart Plus, but it is a highly reliable device, well worth having in the home.
In situations where multiple daily dispensings are required, this unit is up to the task. It can dispense pills up to 24 times a day. It comes with two medication trays, one of which can be taken to the pharmacy for filling (with the proper arrangements made beforehand, of course). Up to 18 pills can be loaded into any one of the slots.
The secure mode on this device is ironclad. In fact, they have a patent on it. The manufacturer states that it’s not tamper-proof, but it offers plenty of security for all but the most radical of tampering situations.
It’s battery operated, but the four AA batteries last for 12 months.
This is a basic unit for a basic price, a good entry level device for users who’ve been using the plastic box type of dispenser and wanted to investigate automated dispensers.
As with so many of the other devices, it has the ability to dispense meds by automation for 28 days. Smaller than some of the other units, users can only store nine pills per compartment, meaning refills will have to be more frequent.
When the time for taking a dose arrives, it sounds a loud (85db) alarm that doesn’t shut off until the pills are dispensed. The basic unit does not include a flashing light, but Med Ready offers the same essential model with a flashing LED light for a little more money.
It comes with only one loading tray, but additional loading trays are inexpensive, and having at least one extra tray would be extremely beneficial.
This unit is primarily for the functioning senior who perhaps gets forgetful when it comes to taking his or her meds. It is not recommended for patients with serious dementia or addictions, because it is fairly easy to get the pills out early.
This, friends, is the Cadillac Coup de Ville of automated pill dispensers! This will do everything except make cappuccinos, and who knows? That may be available in future models.
First off, it’s not for everyone. It’s high-end, with a high-end price. But never put a price on independence, because that is what this device delivers.
Talk about set it and forget it! You can dump a 90-day supply of pills or capsules into the 16 bins – if you need that many – and the Medacube ensures that the daily doses are administered punctually and acurately, by means of a sophisticated scheduling software application. Up to 20 customizable schedules can be set, and modified at any point during the 90-day period.
If your pharmacy uses QR codes on the pill bottles – and they virtually all do these days – the Medacube can read the barcode on the label and record the medication and all pertinent information.
This device has online capability, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Medication information is stored in a cloud, and reminders can be sent to multiple recipients via text, e-mail or phone call. The Medacube will also send alerts if a dosage was missed, if there was a problem with the delivery system, or if there was an interruption in IP service.
Like the name suggests, the device is a cube, and not a flying medication saucer like the other models. It sits handsomely on a countertop or table, and has a classy look about it.
It’s top-of-the-line, with features that many users will take a pass on, but when a loved one’s independence is on the line, it offers unsurpassed peace of mind.
This is the least expensive unit on the list, and for what it does, it does very well. It’s essentially the classic plastic pill box – circle, actually – with electronics added.
Compared to the other on the list, it does what they do, albeit with a little less flair, and a little less security. You can store up to 18 pills in each of the 28 compartments, making refills less of a task. The unit beeps and lights up when it is time for a dose, and the pills are dispensed by tipping the unit in order to let the pill(s) roll out.
It only has six progammable schedulers, and that could be a drawback for some users.
It runs on four AA batteries, and an LED readout will alert the user when the batteries are low.
This is not for patients who have severe dementia or drug abuse tendencies. It isn’t as sturdy as some of the other devices, and may not resist tampering as well.
Summary: The Best Pill Dispensers
The price range on automatic pill dispensers is vast, from less than $100 to over $1400. The best choice for most families is one that offers the best security.
Nearly every automatic pill dispenser discussed can deliver the medications on time and in the exact dosage, but what may be more important is how well does it resist delivering pills when the time is not right.
Remember, there is a reason why you may consider an automatic pill dispenser: the person or persons who need the medications are vulnerable to mistakes, or can’t always be trusted.
If the device doesn’t do a good job of safeguarding the medications that aren’t meant to be taken at that particular time, then you will have wasted your money, and will have done nothing to mitigate the risk of accidental dosing.