By Bill Hull, Director of Marketing, Atherton

My Dad loved the idea of innovative technology, but he was often overwhelmed by it. A child of the great depression, he valued delayed gratification. So, while he marveled at technological advances that improved our lives, he remained suspicious of where these advances would lead.  Newfangled “gizmos and gadgets” burst onto the scene every day. Some were wondrous and others he considered downright silly. Like many people, my Dad had a hard time seeing the value of paying for something that he could do himself; even if his way was harder and longer.

On the surface, technological advancements to medication management can seem silly. To be sure, almost everyone can open a prescription bottle and take a pill. But in the words of our former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C Everett Koop: “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” And especially for seniors, it often isn’t just one pill.  According to the National Council for Patient Information and Education, 1.6 billion prescriptions are written every year in the United States. Researchers report that 51% of individuals 65 years old and older who use medications take at least five different prescription drugs regularly, and 25% take between 10 and 19 pills each day. The research also found that 57% of those who were polled admitted that they sometimes forget to take their medications.

Do you always take the medication prescribed to you on time and in the correct manner? Failure to take medications correctly accounts for more than 10% of hospital and nursing home admissions among seniors. Adverse drug reactions are far more common than we like to believe and while not always fatal, they can permanently lower your quality of life.

Common problems reported are:

  • Forgetting to take your medication on time.
  • Taking too many doses at once.
  • Taking doses of the same pill too close together.
  • Getting different pills mixed up.

Technology can help you manage your medications for optimum effect. There are literally hundreds of “gizmos and gadgets” to help in this area. In this article, we will summarize the options into three categories. The least expensive options are simple and require some work. As the costs go up, things become increasingly automated and easy.

  1. Pill Boxes:

We all have seen the plastic containers with flip up lids that can be used to organize pills for the week. Often, individual days are further separated into morning and night doses. If you have more than one prescription, you should start here. There are dozens of variations on these simple models. Some are pocket sized and others can be large and more complex. All of them will help you to

  • Organize your medications so you take the right one.
  • Avoid medication errors. You can see whether you are up to date.
  1. Pill Dispensers:

Manufacturers have discovered that many of us have great intentions, but we’re not so great at follow-through. We may initially sort our pills dutifully into our pill box; but we still forget. Fortunately, when taking medications correctly becomes challenging, there are dozens of companies that have developed many ways to help. People in all stages of life can benefit from these tools. Pill dispensers can start for as little as $50 and can go up to nearly $1,000. You can find them in department stores like Walmart or Target; drug stores like Walgreens, CVS or Rite-Aid; on Amazon or websites like  The creativity is endless. Some dispensers are mechanical. Simply load them, turn a knob, and the correct doses will be dispensed. Some have timers, and alarms that will not turn off until the pills are dispensed. Other dispensers are automatic and dispense the correct dose at the correct time. There are pill dispensers that ring, talk, blink, vibrate, and send text messages. Some have keys for security, corresponding reminder wrist watches that send alarms, tamper-proof mechanisms, memory chips, battery back-up and an automatic dispensing cup. There are locking compartments that can be automatically unlocked for the single dose needed; and many other features to ensure safety and consistency in medication management. Some can be mounted under a shelf or cabinet. On the higher end, these pill dispensers can handle just about any number of variations and complex dosage regimens.

  1. Medication Management Services

For a monthly fee ranging anywhere from $35 to $120 a month, there are service providers who will go to neaqrly any length to make sure that complex dosage and prescription instructions are followed carefully. Often these companies present their product as a less expensive alternative to assisted living. To be sure, there are circumstances where these devices and services can help someone to maintain their independence longer. In other cases, medication management needs to be included with a host of other social, physical, and emotional support services to ensure optimum living. A few of the more established medication management vendors are MedMinder, Livi, Philips Medication Dispensing Service, HealthOneMed Dispense A-Pill, SimpleMed and TabSafe. Each of these work with high-tech pill dispensers that are nothing short of amazing. Some use your existing phone lines, others utilize cellular or cloud-based technology. These services can do any and all of the following: order the medications, provide delivery, automatically organize and sort the pills into the proper schedule, provide alarms and reminders, send alerts by email and text messaging, automatically dispense the proper dosages and keep careful records of compliance and usage. Some can open a two-way voice channel with the medical alert professionals at the UL certified monitoring center so they work like a Life-Alert system. While some states provide Medicaid and non-Medicaid assistance for these services, California is not one of them.

The goal of all these “gizmos and gadgets” is to make sure you never forget to take your medications again, you never double dose again, and you avoid dangerous medication errors. This technology, from the simple to the very complicated, can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones, and make life safer and easier to manage. What kind of a price tag can you put on that?