The first region-wide trial of its kind rolled out the automated pill dispensers to over 250 people andconcluded on 31st March 2012. The results are impressive.
|Project Executive Summary|
1. The pill dispenser is highly effective in helping vulnerable adults remember to take their medication. Of those asked, 96% said it worked and resulted in improved health, more independence and a better quality of life
2. Although the device is aimed at people with poor memory such as those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it also benefited patients with Parkinson’s, mental health issues, learning difficulties, physical difficulties, patients with long-term medical conditions on a daily pill regime, and the visually impaired
3. The data collected showed significant savings have been achieved. In total the participants generated savings of £431k, an average of £1,700 per person over a six month period
4. The two largest areas of savings are from reductions in medication prompting visits at the patient’s home and reduced hospital re-admissions for those on the pill dispenser. Home visits amounted to £107k i.e. 52% of total social care savings, and hospital admissions amounted to £151k and i.e. 68% of total health savings
The multi-agency pilot includes 53 people who had been in hospital after failing to properly take their medicine in the six months before the scheme. After the pilot, Not a single patient was readmitted since starting to use the pill dispenser.
In the case of those 53 people alone, 371 bed days (1) were freed up and the NHS saved a total £94,605 against an investment of £10,865. The cost per patient was £205, but the saving per patient in terms of social care and NHS costs was £1,700 over six months.
The project involves a GP prescribing the device or a Social Worker assessing suitability, a pharmacist dispensing it and social care staff advising and embedding the scheme into care plans. The trial is funded by the NHS Innovation Fund and Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands.
People who fail to correctly take prescribed drugs risk their health and independence. Research shows the costs of admissions resulting from patients not taking prescribed medicines was estimated to be between £36m and £197m in 2006-07
“Poor medication adherence puts enormous strain on the NHS and local authority budgets, not to mention ruining people’s quality of life and ability to live independently,” says Matt Bowsher, Head of Adult Social Care at Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands.
The pilot has so far involved people with dementia, visual impairments, mental health issues, Parkinsons and people with learning disabilities.
John Barber, an 84-year-old from Dudley with dementia, described the dispenser as “dead easy” in a short film about the Project produced in September 2010. John, whose daily medication included tablets for his diabetes and his he
art, explains: “The bell rings, the red light shines, you lift it up and turn it forwards and it is already pre-set. Tablets in the mouth - gone!”
Dr Dawn Moody, a GP with a special interest in geriatric medicine who works at Leek Moorlands Hospital and Waterhouses medical practice, both in Staffordshire Moorlands, is involved in the trial. Dr Moody says: “The automatic pill dispensers can have a very dramatic impact upon medication compliance and safety for frail older people, leading to increased safety, reduced hospital admissions and thus improving quality of life. Our involvement has also provided excellent new opportunities to improve communication and sharing of ideas with colleagues in adult social care and is acting as a catalyst for the wider development of joint working initiatives.”
Patients at Dr Moody’s practice who participated included someone with a memory impairment who was hospitalised after an accidental overdose of a paracetamol-based painkiller and another person with a memory condition who suffered falls, being unable to regulate blood pressure or blood sugar levels.
The pre-programmed dispenser, around 19cm in diameter, dispenses pills at pre-programmable times during the day and consists of a movable carousel divided into 29 sections containing tablets. The dispenser sounds when it is time to take medicine and can connect to personal alarms and telephone monitoring systems, alerting carers if someone fails to take medicines on time.
Assistive technology, as the scheme illustrates, can support people’s independence. “Creative use of technology is an essential component of supporting people to regain control over their lives,” says Paul Davies executive director of adult social care and inclusion at Walsall council and regional lead for assistive technology at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).
We have produced an easy read summary for people interested in the findings from the Project, please click here to access.
If you would like to replicate the Project you can access a full technical report with process documentation here.
To read the case study, please click here.
To access a video featuring patient John Barber, please click here.