We have an ongoing initiative researching the tools that are available to help manage medication, and avoid the complications that accompany poor adherence.
Our most recent research is a hands-on evaluation of a variety of complex medication management systems. In the past we have also researched less complex ways to manage medications, including pill boxes and medication reminders.
Automatic Medication Dispenser Evaluation Project
This is a description of our most recent comparative evaluation of automatic medication / pill dispensers.
Goal: Do an in-depth, hands-on evaluation of all/most of the high end medication management dispensers and smart pill boxes that are available for use by consumers and their caregivers in their homes or independent living situations.
Who Did the Work
The hands-on work for this evaluation was done primarily by Dr. Richard Caro.We enlisted an expert advisory panel of individuals with varied and relevant expertise, who we relied on to make sure we were thinking about the right issues and challenges to make the work as relevant as possible.
Our advisory panel contains experts with a variety of different perspectives on the topic of medication management and older adults. Professional competencies in the team include physio-therapy, occupational therapy, gerontology, pharmacy, care management, dementia-care, aging services, and technology.
While the expert panel gave us invaluable guidance, if it turns out we have made any errors, Tech-enhanced Life is solely responsible for those.
What We Did
Methodology: We identified all the products we could find that were commercially available and fit our definition of automatic pill dispensers or smart pill boxes. We researched them all online and in some cases by interviewing the companies, and ruled out those which seemed to have obvious flaws or which were not yet commercially available, or which failed to respond to repeated “customer enquiries”. We acquired each of the products that seemed “promising” and included them in our evaluations. In total, we did in-depth, hands-on evaluations of 10 different “automatic pill dispenser” products, as well as a rather large number of much simpler pill boxes and pill organizers that we have discussed elsewhere on this site.
For the evaluations, we set up and used all the products side by side for a period of several months. We implemented various medication regimens, and evaluated the ease of use and challenges associated with the roles of dispensee and filler. We did our best to think through the potential challenges people with various physical and cognitive impairments would have.
Our expert advisory panel was involved in helping us think through what the important features were, and how to think about various likely use cases. The expert panel observed the systems in use via video conference, and made suggestions about the testing, and shared their reactions to the products. Their inputs, especially the clinical inputs, were extremely valuable in ensuring we focused on the right things.
Independent: Several of the vendors were kind enough to loan us their products to evaluate. In other cases, Tech-enhanced Life bought or rented the products. Other than loaning us their products, and in some cases being interviewed and sharing their reasons for specific design tradeoffs, the vendors did not have inputs to the study, nor did they sponsor it in any way.
Output: Comparative evaluation, including strengths and weaknesses, with the main purpose being to help individual consumers and caregivers make an informed decision which product will work best for them — based on the specific persona and physical and mental characteristics that best match their situation.
Neither Tech-enhanced Life, nor Richard Caro, nor the expert advisory panel received financial compensation of any sort for conducting this evaluation.
Several of the vendors of the products being evaluated agreed to provide their products for evaluation without charge. For those vendors who did not provide free “evaluation products”, Tech-enhanced Life purchased or rented the products during the evaluation period. After completion of the evaluation we plan to return the loaner products, and do not anticipate retaining any of the products for the personal benefit of the evaluators. Other than loaning products, none of the vendors has made (or will make) any financial contribution to this work. There is no “sponsored content” included in the outputs from this study. To the extent there is any sponsored content or advertisements elsewhere on the Tech-enhanced Life website, they are clearly marked as such.
Tech-enhanced Life typically includes links to the websites of the products being evaluated so readers can go to the company websites and acquire the products should they so wish. Sometimes these links are “affiliate links”, which means that in some cases Tech-enhanced Life earns a commission when consumers purchase one of the products from a company. In some cases we may also negotiate some type of discount for our readers with those companies as a result of sending the companies potential customers.
We do not allow the presence or absence of any affiliate link to influence which products we recommend. We model our approach to affiliate links on that used by the New York Times product review site “The Wirecutter”. (See How we fund our research).