This pill dispenser offers easy medication management
This machine may add peace of mind.
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It was 6:45 in the evening and a strong storm was blowing through the Midwest. Wind gusts had knocked down power lines, so it was in the dark that I suddenly realized I’d blown past my evening regimen of medications. Anyone who takes medicine for chronic pain understands the moment of alarm I experienced.
In the short few weeks I’d been using the Hero Pill Dispenser, I’d come to rely on its persistent (yet not unpleasant) chime to keep me on track with my prescriptions and vitamins. The power outage meant that I didn’t hear the chime, but the Hero app notified me when I was 15 minutes past my usual dose time. Whew.
What is the Hero Pill Dispenser?
The Hero Pill Dispenser is, as its name suggests, a unit designed to dispense medications and supplements. Seniors and chronic pain sufferers often have several medications to juggle, and the Hero is designed to make scheduling, dispensing, and even refilling a breeze.
The Hero unit itself is about the size of a single-cup coffee maker, with a color display, large navigation buttons, and 10 rotating medicine cartridges that stay securely locked behind a door just below the navigation buttons. A plastic key is included and can be used to open the door to access your stored medications if you should lose power, say, in a storm.
What I like
Marketed toward the aging-in-place, Hero is programmed from a smart phone but then operates on the set schedule, even if its Wi-Fi connection goes out. Caregivers can set limits on specific medications (no more than four Tylenol per day, for example) and passcodes for one or all of the stored medications. They can also monitor adherence, see when any on-demand medications are taken, and even when the access door is opened. Hero is designed for the caregiver to have as much oversight as desired, which means more peace of mind to caregivers and the ability to give the doctor accurate information.
It’s easy for caregivers to manage
The caregiver’s Hero app is almost exactly like the main user’s app, and it allows the easy addition of new medications, changing of dosage amounts, PIN updates, and administration of every feature on the Hero dispenser, even remotely.
There is an optional prescription refill service that can be set up through the primary app, but not through the caregiver app.
It’s easy to use
When it’s time to take my medicine, Hero chimes at a volume I set in the app. The display informs me that it’s time for my regimen, and with the easy entry of my PIN, my meds are dropped into a little cup. A light blinks above the cup, and the display tells me how many pills should be in the cup, so I can be sure I’m taking the correct amount.
When the cup is removed, the pulsing light turns red and stays that way until the cup is returned to its tray.
Via the large buttons and easy-to-read display, I can also access on-demand medications stored in Hero, dispense future doses (in case I’ll be gone from home so I can take the dose with me), and manage pill counts and refills. These things can be done on the unit, but all administration can be done by caregivers from the app.
What I don’t like
The Hero makes fairly loud mechanical noises and rumblings. It doesn’t bother me, but my third-shift-working husband gets annoyed when I’m taking my noon meds while he’s trying to sleep. Our espresso machine is fairly loud, and this operates at about the same volume. A minor annoyance, but not a dealbreaker for me. But then, I’m not the one trying to sleep through it.
It struggles with tiny pills
To see how it handles pills of different sizes, I popped out a few weeks’ worth of birth control pills and added them to the daily schedule. If there aren’t about 10 in the cartridge, the Hero often can’t dispense one. When this happens, the access door pops open, and the display instructs you to grab your dose out manually, give the cartridge a shake, and return it to the machine.
Once, instead of being unable to dispense one tiny pill, Hero gave me two. It’s been flawless with more standard-sized medications, but I would not rely on it to reliably dispense something as small as birth control without issues.
You can only rent it
And we come to my biggest gripe. You can only rent Hero. There is an initiation fee of $100 (which I’ve often seen waived in promotions), and a monthly rental price of $29.99. At the time of this writing, the monthly fee is discounted to $24.99 per month with a minimum 12-month commitment. With the current discounts, you’re paying $300 for a year of pill management. That’s not terrible.
But I’m not even 40. I’ll be taking medications for a long time. Obviously, the cost over time becomes a bit ridiculous. If this is for someone aging-in-place as the company clearly intends, the monthly rental approach is reasonable. But for someone younger with chronic pain or who just takes a lot of meds and would like help keeping track of them, renting the Hero doesn’t make financial sense. It would be $1,500 for five years of use, and then you’d have to return it.
Should you try the Hero Pill Dispenser?
If you have a loved-one aging in place who struggles to manage their medication(s) independently, the Hero Pill Dispenser can offer considerable peace of mind. I am clearly not the customer Hero Health has in mind for this product, but even someone in my position might find the Hero to be a valuable, if steep, investment over time.
I would love to see Hero offer a rent-to-own plan, but for now I’m keeping the shipping box in the garage for when I have to return it.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.