One of the biggest problems with drug therapies is not the effectiveness of the medication, but the lack of compliance on the part of the patient. Even a single missed dose can have a significant impact in some treatments. When you consider all the missed doses across a large population, it can also represent a major loss of revenue for drug companies, who must then look elsewhere to make up the losses. Now combine this with the fact that nearly 9 out of 10 older adults in the U.S. use prescription medications, and you can see why compliance can be a big issue for many reasons.
We have covered other products that automate medication management before, and now there’s a new entry in the field: the HERO. The company calls it a “smart appliance” but I call it a pill dispensing robot. The connected device plugs into a standard AC electrical outlet, but has a battery backup if the power fails, and there’s even a manual override if the power is completely dead. The device has ten separate bins for pills, and can be programmed to dispense different pills at different times of the day. You can also have different users share the one device. The user interface includes password protection. The system also has a smartphone app so that caregivers can monitor a person’s use of the device including notifications when pills have been taken. And the HERO can even remind you when it’s time to refill your prescriptions.
The HERO lists for nearly $1,000, which seems a bit expensive (especially given the competition). The device is sold out for 2016, but you can pre-order for a 2017 delivery at a reduced price of $599. (The price is scheduled to rise over time until it reaches the list price.) The robot does appear to make it easier to manage your pills, and the price can make sense if the alternative is to pay for home healthcare services. Other people may find that they can make do with a daily pill box and one of the many free smartphone apps that will remind you to take your meds.