Smart packages for medication may help older consumers stay on track with prescriptions

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Experts want to help consumers be more consistent with taking their medications

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo explored how new technology may improve how older consumers take their prescriptions. 

They explained that prescription bottles equipped with smart packaging can help track when consumers take their pills and ensure that they don't forget to take their medication. The team argues that this would lead to better health outcomes. 

“Many of these products are advertised as user-friendly and efficient, but not all are tested with seniors in mind,” said researcher Sadaf Faisal. “So how would we know if older adults are able to use them for their day-to-day medication intake and are there any factors that can impact in-home utilization?” 

Benefits of new technology

The researchers had 10 participants with an average age of 76 years old involved in the study. The group was given smart packaging for their medications, and the team interviewed them on how well they were able to use it and what they thought of the technology. The participants took about 11 medications each day for several different chronic conditions. 

Many of the participants reported being comfortable with the smart packaging; those who were the most familiar with technology reported the greatest outcomes with the device. Because the packaging tracked their habits, they were less likely to miss their medication. 

“Across participants, we found fairly consistent pros and cons to the technology,” said researcher Tejal Patel. “The ability to learn the product easily was important for the participants to use it consistently. Feedback from their social circle – such as supportive children, partners, or health-care providers – also helped reinforce using the technology.” 

While there were benefits to this smart packaging, the participants also had some hesitations. For starters, the price of these devices was considered to be too high without any assistance from a health insurance plan. The participants also expressed frustration when the device glitched or didn’t perform as designed. 

The researchers believe these devices can ultimately be effective for older consumers. Moving forward, they hope health care professionals work with their older patients to ensure the best health outcomes. 

“For technology to be effective, it has to be accepted by the end-users,” Faisal said. “Smart, technology-based adherence products have the potential to support patients, but health care providers should assess older adults’ medication intake behaviors and barriers and facilitators to using a product before recommending them.” 

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