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New Technology Aids in Fight Against Opioid Crisis


Have you ever looked at your vitamin bottle and forgot whether you took that daily supplement? Or have you been prescribed a 10-day antibiotic, but stopped taking it after five days because you felt better?

Medication non-adherence is a common, dangerous and costly problem in the United States. An April 2017 article in the New York Times outlined the high costs of not taking medications as prescribed.

The New York Times article, citing a review in Annals of Internal Medicine, notes that 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions aren't filled and about 50 percent of medications for chronic disease aren't taken as prescribed. Not adhering to a medication regime causes about 125,000 deaths, 10 percent of hospitalizations and costs the U.S. health system upwards of $200 billion a year.

The reasons people don’t take medications or stop taking them too soon are varied. It could be the cost of the medication is too high, they experience unpleasant side effects or they simply can’t remember to take the medication on a regular basis - thus reducing its effectiveness significantly.

Here are five ways to increase medication adherence:

  1. Sync up your prescriptions and refills with your pharmacy. Most pharmacies have mobile apps or call reminders when a prescription is ready for pickup or needs to be refilled. For regular medications, set up an automatic refill with your pharmacy and let them give you a call or send a text message when your order is ready.

  2. Organize all your medications in one place. Putting some of your medications in the kitchen, some in the bathroom and some in your purse automatically leads to disorganization and lack of compliance. Think about where you typically take your medications and then set up a meds station there. It could be a basket on your kitchen or bathroom counter or a space in the kitchen cabinet.

  3. Take your medications at the same time each day. Setting a specific time of day will help you get into the routine of sticking to your medication schedule. Set a reminder(s) on your phone or other device to give you a nudge.

  4. Know what you’re taking and, most importantly, why. Too many people blindly fill a prescription from their doctor without truly understanding how the medication is helpful and why taking it as prescribed will have long-term benefits. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions about the medication and be sure to speak up if you’re experiencing side effects or problems. By grasping the “why” behind the prescription you’ll be more likely to stick to the medication schedule.

  5. Let technology help. Yes, reminders on your phone or a pharmacy app are useful tools, but you can also go a step further with a device that will dispense medications at the designated times, alert you when it’s time for a refill and even send family members or caregivers notice that you took -- or didn’t take -- your medications. Livi is a home medication dispenser that uses a cloud-based application to make scheduling and real-time monitoring of up to 15 medications easy and convenient.

Medication non-adherence is costly to the health care system and potentially fatal for many people who simply aren’t taking the life-saving medications they need on a regular basis. Technology advances and in-home medication dispensers can truly have an impact on this health care crisis.

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Use Technology to Avoid Medication Mistakes at Home

Medication errors at home are on the rise - and the consequences can be severe. From skipping a dosage to taking extra pills, people of all ages are struggling to keep their meds in check.

One study estimates there are at least 1.5 million medication errors each year or 171 each hour. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement reports medication management is a significant patient safety concern. The organization estimates medication errors occur in about 70 percent of home care patients.

An adult child tasked with sorting a parent’s medications into a weekly pill sorter could easily mix up two identical tiny white tablets. A caregiver may inadvertently grab the wrong pill bottle. Or the individual may simply have trouble keeping track of a medication regimen of a dozen pills - some to be taken at night, some in the morning, some with food and some every other day.

With so many people managing chronic illness and disease with a complex medication schedule it’s no wonder mistakes happen.

A study of National Poison Database System data from 2000 through 2012 looked at non-health care facility medication errors and discovered 100 percent increase in medication errors over the 13-year period. The study found the most common types of medication errors included incorrect dose, taking or administering the wrong medication, and inadvertently taking the medication twice.

These errors are easily prevented when the human element is eliminated. That’s exactly what PharmRight Corp. in Charleston, South Carolina, aims to do with its in-home medication dispenser. Livi removes the potential for human error and relies on technology to ensure medications are dispensed at the appropriate times, in the correct dosages and that refills aren’t missed.

Livi can sit right on the kitchen counter managing a 90-day supply of up to 15 different medications. Using a cloud-based application, it also provides medication adherence reports, refill reminders and sends text messages or email alerts to caregivers when a dose is missed or late.

It can be stressful to be responsible for parent or child’s complex medication schedule, knowing even the most diligent caregiver is prone to human error. Relying on technology removes that stress and ensures family members are taking their medication correctly - which means improved health and better quality of life.

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4 Ways to Keeps Your Medications Safe

Daily headlines speak to the opioid crisis in America. And the numbers are staggering: 90 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. The economic burden of prescription opioid misuse is more than $78 billion each year.

Teenagers are also at risk, often taking unsecured opioids and other highly addictive medications from their parents or other family members. If adults aren’t carefully monitoring their pill bottles, it could be days or even weeks before they notice pills are missing.

How can you keep your medications safe? Follow these four safety tips:

  1. Understand exactly what you’re taking and why. Maybe you were given a prescription for painkillers following a back surgery. Know the risks associated with the medication, when you should take it and for how long. Working with your doctor to establish a timeframe, means you’re not taking the medications long-term so there’s no need for extra refills or half-used pill bottles to be easily accessible to others.

  2. Talk to your children about medication safety. Children and teens may be under the impression that because a doctor prescribed a medication, it’s automatically safe. Discuss the importance of taking only those medications that were specifically prescribed to you and the dangers of sharing other people’s medications. Teens, especially, understand the highly addictive nature of opioids and other painkillers.

  3. Track your medications. Be aware of how many pills you have left in the bottle and be diligent about noting if the pill bottle seems a little more empty than it should.

  4. Keep medications in a secure place. Storing medications like opioids in the bathroom medicine cabinet or on the kitchen counter is simply inviting trouble. Instead, keep them in a less obvious location or in a locked cabinet.

A new medication dispenser has built-in safety measures to protect medications from getting in the wrong hands. PharmRight Corp. in Charleston, South Carolina, has created an in-home medication dispenser that locks and users can set up a PIN for added security.

Livi can manage a 90-day supply of up to 15 different medications. Using a cloud-based application, it also provides medication adherence reports, refill reminders and sends text messages or email alerts to caregivers when a dose is missed or late. The alerts and reporting features make it easy to track any issues, plus Livi will only dispense medications at the prescribed times, making it almost impossible for someone else to access medications.

Using a secure medication dispenser is one way to protect yourself -- especially if you’re a recovery addict concerned about these potentially addictive medications -- and the young people in your home.