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Are Smart Pill Dispensers Worth the Investment?

Ensuring our elderly loved ones take their medication correctly is essential, whether for vitamins, supplements, or prescriptions. However, managing all of that can be challenging. You might store them in pill organizers to be consumed at the right time. Nevertheless, the process is laborious, and it is still easy to forget doses, leading to a probable bigger health problem. This is where smart pill dispensers can help. These small devices can do tasks for us, automatically giving the right pills at the right time and improving medication adherence. In this article, we will analyze the cost-effectiveness of smart pill dispensers, considering both financial investment and potential healthcare benefits.

What are smart pill dispensers?

Smart pill dispensers are small electronic devices that can dispense pills automatically at a scheduled time. They support seniors by allowing them only to pick up their medication and consume it. These devices can be personalized to dispense one or multiple pills at specific times the user sets.

Most contain an alarm to alert the user when it is time to take the pills. Some smart pill dispensers can be monitored remotely with a personalized app so the family or doctor can monitor the process.

Benefits of smart pill dispensers

Using smart pill dispensers has several benefits, from automatic medication delivery to long-term financial savings.

  • Medication adherence. This technology can improve medication adherence for seniors, allowing them to take the proper doses of medicine at the right time, most conveniently and easily.
  • Alarms and personalized schedule. Creating a customized schedule based on the senior user’s needs is possible. By doing this, the smart pill dispenser will ring an alarm at the right time. In addition, most devices have a push button that must be pressed to silence the alarm, ensuring the user has taken the pills for the day.
  • Complex medication regimen. It is possible to handle a wide range of medication regimens, whether simple (one pill per dose) or complex (multiple different pills per dose). Seniors will have the right medication on time.
  • Remote monitoring. Some smart pill dispensers with remote monitoring capability can allow the healthcare provider to follow up closely on any potential side effects of the senior and adjust the doses if needed.

A smart pill dispenser with these features can lead to cost savings in the long term. First, it can reduce missed doses, which could lead to unnecessary doctor appointments or, even worse, hospitalizations. Second, medication waste (expired prescriptions) is minimized.

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Are there any drawbacks with using smart pill dispensers?

Despite the numerous benefits of using smart pill dispensers, some drawbacks of this technology must also be considered.

Smart pill dispensers are primarily for individuals with prescribed medications, especially seniors. However, the complexity of using this technology for elders can be a crucial drawback to consider. Installation of the system, understanding programming features, and setting up operation processes are some challenges that may impede the integration of smart pill dispensers into seniors’ daily routines. Although most of these devices are designed for easy use, optimal usage still requires a basic learning and understanding of the system.

To operate correctly, these systems require a continuous power source (electricity or batteries). If there is a power outage or the batteries die, the smart pill dispenser may not dispense medication on schedule, leading to missed doses.

Other drawbacks to utilizing smart pill dispensers could be the user's acceptability, technical malfunctions leading to missed doses, and, most importantly, the cost to acquire and maintain these devices.

Compatibility of pills with smart pill dispensers

For choosing the right small pill dispenser, it is important to recognize that not all devices are capable of accommodating every type of pill. Each device is engineered with specific dimensions, making it suitable for managing different pill sizes and geometries.

To select the right smart pill dispenser, it is important to read the manufacturer's specifications carefully, then compare them with the dimensions of the pills, making sure they are size-compatible with the smart pill dispenser for your medication regimen.

Costs associated with smart pill dispensers

The cost varies from $20 to $2,000, depending on the brand and features, such as material composition and technology. For example, some smart pill dispensers are made conservatively, giving the user access to this technology at a reasonable price while still performing the basic fundamental operations needed to improve medication adherence. Other smart pill dispensers are made with higher-quality materials, adding to the production costs. They also include extra embedded hardware features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth for remote monitoring and communication with the doctor (telemedicine), daily pills encapsulation for user delivery, and a touch screen for easy interaction with the device, boosting the user's comfort and experience and medication adherence.

Additionally, ongoing costs for some smart pill dispensers could be applied for monthly subscription fees (around $10–100 per month), enabling connectivity with the medical advisor and/or family. Some devices tend to encapsulate the pills in small plastic bags for the user’s delivery, requiring an additional cost for refilling these encapsulation bags once they are finished.

Financial savings through improved medication management

Financial savings through improved medication management is something important worldwide.

In Europe, it is estimated that medication non-adherence leads to premature deaths of 200,000 patients each year and incurs excess healthcare costs of 125 billion euros annually.

The expense of medical non-adherence from an individual is notable. A clear example of that is in the US, with disease-specific economic costs ranging between $949-44,190 (878-41,133 euros) per person annually (in 2015).

Because of that, having help from a person to assist patients (especially seniors) in such circumstances would be ideal. However, this is usually expensive. In the U.S., assisted living costs around $5,350 per month, whereas adult day care costs $2,000 on average. Nursing homes cost between $8,500 and $10,000 per month.

Acquiring a smart pill dispenser might seem expensive, but using this technology daily to improve medication management can save money in the long term. If the user follows the medication consumption according to the schedule, they are less likely to have health problems that could require extra doctor appointments, hospitalization, or additional treatment.

Beyond cost: the value of improved health outcomes

Medication is only effective when it is taken properly. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the OECD estimate that one out of two individuals with chronic diseases do not use their medication as prescribed, leading to hospitalization that involves extra costs.

The benefit of having a smart pill dispenser is not only about money but also about improving health and enhancing the quality of life for the elderly. By helping people adhere to their proper medication dose at the right time, this technology could not only improve the senior's overall well-being but also avoid any health and economic complications.

Bottom line

Smart pill dispensers are a good alternative for managing medication, especially for the elderly. Proper use can provide many benefits by improving the user’s health and saving money in the long run. It is always recommended to consult with a doctor or pharmacist to find the best option that suits individual needs.


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