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Medication reminder for elderly

By Julie Clothier for CNN

Existing medication management systems are complicated.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- It is a common scenario: you are on medication but you forget to take it -- or worse, you cannot remember whether you took the pill you were due to take an hour ago.

A design graduate has come up with a solution to the problem by using smart card technology, which prompts patients to take the correct medication at the correct time.

London-based Katrin Svabo Bech, 22, plans to market her invention, called PillAid and aimed particularly at helping the elderly, to the pharmaceutical industry.

Bech's creation involves a smart card and a dispenser. She developed it during her final year studying design at London's Brunel University.

"It's an automated medicated management system for elderly people, aimed to improve communication between all groups involved in the process -- including GPs (general practitioners), hospital doctors, pharmacists, the patients themselves and carers," she told CNN.

When the patient goes to the doctor, they hand them a personalized smart card.

The doctor has a smart card reader and loads any prescription information onto the card.

The patient then takes the card to their pharmacist, who also has a smart card reader, and using information on the card, dispenses the prescribed medication into a dispenser.

The dispenser has a tiny microchip inside, which can read information on the card when it is inserted into the dispenser.

It automatically alerts the patient when it is time to take their medication and informs them whether they need to take their pills with food or water.

"The patient's GP can also have a look at the smart card to see whether they have been taking their medication at regular intervals," Bech said.

Bech came up with the idea after visiting her grandmother, who had recently had a stroke, last summer.

"She was on a lot of medication and I thought it would be great to create something that could make her life easier, so that she could keep her independence ... so she could feel confident in herself."

Bech is due to start a Masters in strategic healthcare design early next year.

Jim Kennedy, of Britain's Royal College of General Practitioners, said any initiative which helps patients to take the appropriate levels of medication is welcome.

But he said the device would need to be thoroughly tested before being used on patients and cost may be an issue.

"There are a number of inexpensive methods patients can use as a means of assisting them in remembering to take their medication."

These include writing down their medication on a calendar or getting someone to send them a text message to remind them, he added.

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