Dispense-A-Pill – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by pharmacy on June 22, 2011

HealthOneMed recently announced Dispense-A-Pill (DAP), a new device designed to help patients manage medications and provide reminders and alerts for up to three months at a time.

The Good

The device has similar features to the GlowCap, but takes technology further by managing up to 16 medications at the same time. Patients can also program timed reminders for other medical needs, like injections, ointments, eyedrops, and such. DAP even has a feature for programming health-related messages like appointment reminders and prompts to check vital signs or blood sugar. For some reason, HealthOneMed calls this feature FunMinders™.

It’s easy to use; you just pour in your entire supply of pills and program dispensation times. The device sorts the pills and readies what needs to be taken at the correct time. This addresses a number of concerns, especially for seniors. The pill bottles are opened only once, a vast improvement over struggling to open multiple bottles several times a day.

Research shows that about half of the medications prescribed each year are taken incorrectly. Since DAP sorts the pills automatically, there’s no chance of taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose due to poor eyesight or forgetfulness.

DAP also alerts caregivers via phone message. If a dosage is missed, the device will call up to five people to let them know something is wrong. Caregivers also have the option to review the device dispensation history.

The Bad

Seniors are notoriously low-tech and may need help programming the device. It won’t help people who willfully refuse to take their medication and may lead to a false sense of security among caregivers. Patients can remove the medications from the cup and forget to take them or throw them out. Even the cleverest electronic device cannot ensure compliance.

The Ugly 

It’s pricey. The people who need it most are already faced with the high costs of healthcare and may not be able to afford the cost – $995. Even the payment plan, $248.75 down and $54.95 per month for 2 years, will be out of reach for many.

The Lowdown

Overall, this is pretty cool technology that addresses a lot of issues for seniors and patients with conditions that require a lot of drugs each day. Cancer patients, patients with a number of chronic conditions, and patients taking medications for chronic pain will all find this device helpful, as well as patients with memory, eyesight, or hand coordination issues. Unfortunately, the cost will probably prove prohibitive for the average patient.

In order for this technology to truly serve the masses, it will have to be covered by insurance. I don’t see that happening in the near future. However, once competing products hit the market, we may see a drastic reduction in price. When microwave ovens were first introduced, the exorbitant price tags made them unaffordable for most of the population. Today, you can pick up a microwave for 40 bucks at Wal-Mart. Perhaps DAP and the devices that will follow will take the same path, and 10 or 15 years down the line every patient will be able to afford one. What do you think? Is this technology worth the current cost?

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