Next-Generation Home Medication Dispensers

Next-Generation Home Medication Dispensers

  • Sebastian Wendlandt
    Sebastian Wendlandt Executive Director, Brand, Research & Strategy, leads the Healthcare Futures Lab in Munich.

Taking medication prescribed for us by our family doctor and dispensed to us by our local pharmacist is a pretty common, even humdrum, task that most of us will perform countless times during our lives. But did you know that medication errors are actually very common, costing thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars every year?

Newly published research in the UK estimates that more than 237 million medication errors are made annually in England alone. These avoidable errors result in the deaths of 1,700 people and cost more than £98 million (USD 122 million) in additional treatment expenses every year. Such mistakes ─ which can take place during the prescribing, dispensing, administration or monitoring stages of the medication process ─ are now recognized as a serious global issue, with the World Health Organization (WHO) aiming to halve the level of severe avoidable harm caused by such errors by 2022.

As we grow older, many of us find ourselves in a situation where we have to take multiple pills and capsules ─ in varying quantities and at various times of the day ─ to manage common health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal disorders, to name but a few.

Keeping track of the medication we have been prescribed to manage such conditions is actually much more important than many of us realize. It sounds relatively straightforward, but the evidence suggests it’s anything but. With the busy lives we lead nowadays, it can sometimes be difficult to remember exactly when to take our pills, what dosage to take, when to renew our prescriptions and when to discontinue our treatment.

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Keeping track of the medication we have been prescribed with the Home Dispenser

At designaffairs, we’ve been thinking about how to make life easier for ourselves and our loved ones ─ especially when it comes to self medication and general wellbeing. As parents, we know how important it is to look after our children when they are feeling unwell or if they have long-term medical conditions. As adult children, we know how vital it is to ensure our own parents are keeping well and continuing to follow the care plans developed for them by their clinicians.

 

So, what if we developed an appliance that helps us to manage our daily medication needs? One that leverages the latest mobile med-tech to remind us when our medication is due; that could even prepare said medication and administer it to us in the precise dosages required, depending on where each of us was on our medical journey?

What we have in mind is a home medication dispenser that would be provided by your doctor or pharmacist. It’s a key component of what we call our Medication Eco-System, a new approach to solving medication challenges in the home, in care facilities and elsewhere. By fully integrating inputs from clinicians, pharmacists and patients in one sleek and easy-to-use domestic appliance, we think it could be a game changer.

Medication Eco System overview
The Home Dispenser connects patients, doctors and pharmaceutical providers

No larger than a coffee machine, it would sit neatly on your kitchen counter alongside your other appliances. Using facial-recognition technology, this small machine would be able to manage the medication needs of multiple family members simultaneously. Once you’ve inserted the appropriate pharmaceutical cartridges in the device, it will be able to “read” your personal medical history, understand your current medicinal needs and prompt you to take the exact dosage you need at the exact time your clinician has advised you to take it. While you’re waiting for your pills to be prepared, it could even prompt you to read or listen to an interesting article relevant to your personal health and wellbeing, courtesy of its large, user-friendly screen. If you’re not in close proximity to the dispenser when it’s time to take your medication, a small wearable on your wrist (similar to a Fitbit) will alert you.

 

When your partner or other family member needs to take his or her medication, they simply insert their own cartridges, place their face over the screen and the facial-recognition system will pull up their personal medication plan and indicate what they need to take and when they need to take it.

 

In terms of tackling the growing problem of medication error, we think our home medication dispenser could make a big difference by significantly reducing the risk of human error in the administration and consumption of pharmaceutical products in a non-clinical setting. No more confusion about whether you’ve forgotten to take your daily medication or not; no more mixing up your pills with those of your partner; no more accidentally overdosing or underdosing.

Best of all, you have peace of mind that our little machine is doing all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to following your care plan. It “knows” you, it “knows” your medical needs and it “knows” exactly how much and how frequently you need to be taking your medication to keep your health and wellbeing at optimum levels.

Granted, there are a number of appliances already on the market today that fulfill some of the functions described above. But only some ─ not all. Our fully integrated concept has the potential to be a game changer in the world of home dispensing, saving many thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide.

Please feel free to let us know what you think of the concept. Where are the opportunities and where are the risks? What are the pros ─ and are there any cons we haven’t considered yet? We look forward to hearing from you!

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