How to Choose a Smart Pill Dispenser

How to Choose a Smart Pill Dispenser

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Have you been finding it difficult to take your medication? Or are you a caregiver for an elderly loved one who struggles to maintain a regimen? Then an automatic pill dispenser will likely solve your problems. Combined with a medical alert system and a mobile phone with features a senior will love,  medicine dispensed safely on a daily basis can allow seniors to live independently much longer. These solutions allow caregivers to remain connected to their parents or loved ones’ and track progress from anywhere. Drug regimens grow tougher to manage and navigate the more intensive they get. A dispenser can help you keep on track. These devices significantly boost one’s quality of life, which is especially vital in the golden years. 

With that in mind, consider this: according to Consumer Reports, over 33% of survey respondents aged 55 and over take at least five prescription medications. In fact, many of these adults are taking more than ten. That’s a tricky routine to follow for anyone, no matter their age. While pill dispensers can help, not all pill dispensers are created equal. So which solution will best fit a user’s (or their caregiver’s) specific set of needs and preferences? To learn in detail how to choose the best available pill dispensers on the market, read on!

How Do Automatic Pill Dispensers Work? 

Automatic pill dispensers offer senior care recipients a high-tech method for managing their pill regimen, reducing dosing mistakes and streamlining the overall process.   These devices include secure, highly connected systems that are digitally programmed to notify the user about their doses. They are designed to release a precise amount of medication at the correct time, down to the minute.  More advanced models include medical alert systems that trigger notifications if a caregiver or patient misses a dose. Via this feature, a text, phone call, or other notification can be sent when necessary.  

Features to Keep in Mind 

Sure, it might seem that a pill dispenser has but one simple funtion—to dispense pills. But there’s a lot more to the process, and these products come with a long list of features that differ by model and make.  With that said, here are some key features to keep in mind when choosing the ideal model.

Ease of Use

  • Must one press a button, flip the dispenser upside down, or open a lid to dispense the pills? How pills are dispensed is crucial.
  • Is the clock easy to read? Is the display large enough?
  • Is loading pills straightforward and hassle-free? 
  • Are the buttons clearly labeled? 

Portability 

  • Is the dispenser easy to carry around? It shouldn’t be difficult to take on errands or social outings.
  • Is the model lightweight? 

Connectivity 

  • Is an internet connection or phone line required to use the dispenser? 

Locks  

  • Is the dispenser lockable? 
  • As some seniors with cognitive impairment might try to break the dispenser when it’s locked, is it durable?

Alarms  

  • Can a familiar voice be recorded to use as the alarm?
  • Are there flashing lights or other visual cues that act as reminders?
  • Does the dispenser have audible reminders? These are an excellent feature for seniors. 
  • Are the alarms jarring? Users shouldn’t be scared by an alert. 
  • Does the dispenser have multiple volume settings?
  • Can you turn off an alarm?
  • Does the dispenser alert caregivers when a dose is forgotten or missed?

Capacity  

  • How many pills can the dispenser hold?
  • Can it accommodate larger tablets?
  • Can it effectively dispense multiple doses per day? An ideal choice will have this feature.

Editor’s Choice: Hero Medication Dispenser 

According to our research, the best automatic pill dispenser on the market is the Hero Medication Dispenser. Its vast features blend seamlessly into a user’s day-to-day activities while improving their overall quality of life. Of course, both care recipients and caregivers would do well to perform further research (while, of course, keeping in mind the tips shared above). After all, choosing a pill dispenser is a personal decision, and the “right” choice will vary by user.  

Key Features 

Right out the gate, the numbers tell the story with the Hero dispenser. This device—which looks like a coffee machine or soda fountain—holds up to 10 different pills for up to 90 days. And these storage capacities hold true no matter the shape or size of the capsules. More importantly, pills are automatically dispensed into a cup in their prescribed combinations at the correct times, and the dispenser is customizable to any regimen. The dispenser is also part of the Hero Membership, which comes with a mobile app and 24/7 support.  Another benefit is that the Hero’s colourful display provides a large, clear visual for users. And the whirring noises it makes when pills are dispensed are both encouraging and relaxing. Even better, it offers a 30-day risk-free trial period, wherein one can cancel and get a full refund. Note that this dispenser requires connection to a Wi-Fi network. Internet connection allows users to create an online account and therefore manage their medication schedules. Caregivers can also be added, allowing them to receive notifications of missed doses, refill dates, and low battery status. Lastly, alerts are sent if the cup holding the pills hasn’t been removed within 15 minutes of dispensing. 

Cost

After the $99.99 initiation fee, a Hero membership costs $29.99 per month. It’s also available with complimentary medical refills, offering optimum value to loyal customers. 

Our Take

As mentioned above, the ideal choice of dispenser depends on both the user’s and the caregiver’s needs. The more intensive the medication regimen, the more necessary the Hero dispenser becomes. Buyers with intensive regimens will benefit from this high-end, user-friendly product at a reasonable price. For less intensive pill regimens, however, the $29.99 monthly fee might not be worth it, especially when keeping up with doses isn’t a problem.  Like those struggling with mobility or cognitive functions, highly active seniors who are always on the move may find the Hero dispenser an ideal choice. A busy schedule makes it tough to keep up with multiple, complex daily doses, even for seniors as healthy and spry as they were 30 years ago. 

Honourable Mention: MedMinder 

To rank MedMinder even a close second behind the Hero dispenser is to do it a disservice—it’s a truly exceptional product. Indeed, depending on their needs and preferences, many consumers will find MedMinder the preferable option. So, let’s examine this dispenser to determine whether it’s for you, your loved one, or your patient.

Key Features 

Ease of use is MedMinder’s chief selling point. At the designated times, an alarm sounds and the appropriate compartment lights up, signaling the user to open it. All other compartments remain locked, ensuring that only the correct one is opened at its allotted time.  MedMinder is designed as a rectangular tray with 28 separate compartments. Lifting the main lid allows all the compartments to be loaded at once. MedMinder resembles a standard pill organizer, offering a sense of familiarity.  Speaking of familiarity, a custom message in a familiar voice can be recorded as an alarm, and if a user forgets to take their meds from the tray, they’ll receive a gentle reminder via phone. Caregivers can also be notified by phone, email, or text message when doses are missed.   Like the Hero dispenser, MedMinder is subscription-based. There’s no contract, and the device is linked with a central monitoring center via a built-in cellular modem, allowing dispensing times to be remotely programmed. Users can also set preferred reminders and track dose activity.  Users need only plug in the device—no worrying about phone lines, computers, or internet access.  It’s worth mentioning that MedMinder users can also take advantage of its mail-order pharmacy service. For the price of a copay, it’s possible to receive a pre-filled medication tray, which can be easily placed into the machine. 

Cost 

MedMinder costs $49.99 per month, and a set of four reusable trays costs $25. 

Our Take

With MedMinder, users don’t need to worry about Wi-Fi connections, a benefit over the Hero dispenser. However, MedMinder is more expensive per month. So, users must ascertain whether this device’s advantages are worth the higher price. Really, though, when choosing between the Hero and MedMinder, you’ll find yourself in an embarrassment of riches. Both offer plenty of benefits; you just need to determine which works best for you. 

You’ve Taken the Crucial First Step to Improving Your Pill Regimen

Following this deep dive into automatic pill dispensers, you know what to look for to choose the ideal product for you, ensuring you obtain both top value and improved quality of life.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the providers being reviewed. The providers and WirelessWizard assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an “as is” basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness and without any warranties of any kind whatsoever, express or implied.
Under the banner Tech For Seniors, WirelessWizard is pleased to share innovations for older adults—with a focus on deferring as much as possible the time when getting older gets in the way of living life independently. Check out all of tech-for-seniors content here.
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