Electronic Medicine Dispensers: What to Consider First

Managing a relative’s medications can be difficult and time consuming. New electronic medicine dispensers on the market claim they can help caregivers with task. But much of that depends on how easy they are to set up and use in the first place.

“We’re finding that many of these devices are entirely too complicated,” says Leah Eskenazi, operations director for the Family Caregiver Alliance, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that addresses the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones. “They’re not simple enough.”

And the tools can be expensive, including monthly maintenance fees. Medicare does not cover the cost of these devices, but some Medicare Advantage plans might. If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid and lives in certain states, some costs may be covered.

Still, if you find that you need help with pill dispensing and care monitoring, you may want to give the newest electronic devices a try. Here are four of the latest gadgets to hit the market, including information on pricing and how they may help.

Electronic pill dispensers

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What they are: Philips Lifeline Automated Medication Dispensing and Livi. The electronic devices dispense medication at the appropriate time, with an accompanying alarm.

Cost: Philips Lifeline costs $99 to set up. Monthly service is $60. Livi costs $99 for a monthly subscription plus a $30 shipping fee.

How they help: The caregiver preloads the dispenser, which can store up to 90 days’ worth of medication, depending on the device. They can be locked to secure controlled substances and protect family members from misusing medication.

How they work: Philips Lifeline offers a monthly automated service with an accompanying device that dispenses pre-filled dosage cups. Users receive alarm reminders and can access medication as needed. Caregivers can receive alerts for missed doses and view monitoring reports online.

The Livi, a sleek machine that resembles a Keurig coffee maker, also automatically dispenses pills at a set time. The rentable device holds up to 90 days’ worth of medication or supplements, and can be managed via a cloud-based web application or mobile device. The machine also sends caregivers alerts for missed doses.

Eskenazi advises caregivers and their family members to consider their lifestyle needs before selecting a device. “You have to make a commitment to want to use these,” Eskenazi says. “You have to want to change your routine as a caregiver to work around this tool.”

Voice-activated devices

Echo, Kitchen

What they are: Amazon Echo and Google Home. Both voice-activated devices resemble a speaker and respond to your voice.

Cost: Amazon Echo $180; Google Home $129.

How they help: Both gadgets function as personal assistants by sharing your calendar, including medication reminders. The human-like voice response can be comforting for isolated individuals. They play music and give weather and traffic conditions, among other features.

How they work: Amazon Echo and Google Home have built-in microphones that can detect a voice from a moderate distance. Users can ask, “What’s on my schedule today?” and either one will respond with a list of that day’s events, including any medication reminders on the calendar.

If you want the Echo or the Home to remind your family member to take medication, you have to set up an alarm within the device or set an event on the calendar with which it is synced.

Meredith Kleeman
Meet Our Writer
Meredith Kleeman

Meredith Kleeman is a Baltimore-based freelance writer who specializes in health topics. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post Express, and University of Baltimore Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mlidard.