Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Prescription Alerts Work


Prescription Alert Devices
Devices such as pagers remind people when to take their pills.
Devices such as pagers remind people when to take their pills.
Image courtesy of epill

If you're choosing among prescription alert devices, you have plenty of options. Probably the simplest prescription alerts are alarms or dispensers with alarm functions. Beyond that, you can take some prescription reminders with you in the form of watch- or pager-like devices. While some of these may provide prescription refill reminders and store patient information, most focus on making sure medications are take on time in the right dosage.

Here are examples of different kinds of alert devices for prescription drugs.

  • Medication alarm timers from e-pill can be set to sound up to 37 times daily with alarms lasting up to four minutes and a small screen showing a "Missed pill?" message. They range in price from $25 to $50 and in size from pocket to pillbox size, including one with a refrigerator magnet.
  • The MedCenter System combines a month's worth of daily pill containers with a digital clock. A talking alarm alerts the user to take medication up to six times daily. The pill organizer and reminder costs $70.
  • The Timex Daily Medication Manager combines a seven-day pillbox and digital clock with a talking, visual or sound alarm up to four times a day. It's pocket-sized and costs about $30.
  • The MeDose watch from e-pill adds six daily medication reminders (vibrating or sound) and a stopwatch and costs $100. Cadex watches, also from e-pill, provide 12 daily sound and text reminders, repeating every three minutes until the medication is taken. The Cadex watches also store medical emergency information and cost $80 to $90.
  • The MedReady device provides sound or light reminders and dispenses a single pill each time from a locked pill case. The unit switches to battery operation during power outages, and caregivers can receive daily reports via the Internet. The device costs about $170, or $230 with the Internet reports.
  • The MD.2 automatic pill dispenser from e-pill pairs a voice alarm with a dispensing system to dispense just one pill at a time on schedule. The user pushes a button to access the pill. Pills can be dispensed six times a day from 60 medication cups. A caregiver is notified by phone if the user isn't taking his medication and when the device needs to be refilled. The cost is about $750 plus $30 a month for monitoring and Internet access to the dispensing log.
  • ALRT Technologies' Constant Health Companion reminds the user with a beeping sound to take medications and then gives specific instructions on an LCD screen. The unit stores medical history and physician contact information and can be programmed by a doctor or family member. A remote monitoring subscription option lets a physician or caregiver monitor medication-taking data and send messages to the user. The device costs $100 with monitoring at $30 per month.

As Baby Boomers age and Internet and medical technologies advance, more sophisticated prescription alert systems will undoubtedly be developed. Intel's Health Research Group, for example, is testing a context aware medication prompting system that syncs up several devices -- like wristwatches, phone and television -- to remind seniors in several ways to take their medications.

For lots more information about prescription alerts and related topics, check out the links on the next page.