Managing Medications in iOS

Managing Medications in iOS

Although the built-in Reminders app, or any such third-party app, can help you schedule the medications you take, a dedicated medication management app will go beyond reminders and may provide additional features that help protect from overdose, incorrect medication, and harmful interactions; aid caregivers and healthcare professionals; and connect medications to doctors and pharmacies.

For the last few years, Pillboxie [App Store, $1] has been my go-to app for pill reminders. It handles multiple patients (think family members) and has great looking reports (medication lists and history) and its nagging reminders feature—which repeats reminders every minute until you take your meds or snooze the reminders—has overcome my forgetfulness.

So why would I look for a replacement? I’d be willing to overlook that Pillboxie still looks like a pre-iOS 7 app if it weren’t for the fact that it handles neither medications taken “as needed” (PRN) nor those taken at an hourly interval. To simulate the latter I could schedule multiple doses per day, but the reminders wouldn’t be rescheduled based on the time I took my meds. For example, say I take a drug every four hours and I set the first dose for 7am; if I actually take the first dose at 7:25am, the next dose should be taken at 11:25am—and Pillboxie would have me taking it early at 11am.

It turns out that very few apps get this right. Two, as a matter of fact.

When I previewed Easy Pill [App Store, $2] in the App Store, I had a sense I was in the presence of greatness. However, unlike most apps in this category, it’s strictly a paid app, so I didn’t download it until I’d waded through all the free and free-with-in-app-purchase apps first.

The app is gorgeous! It’s not just that it looks like a post-iOS 6 app, but the developer has made it very simple to add and track medications as well. Unlike most other apps I looked at, a single tap is all that is necessary to mark a drug “taken” and you can tap once again to adjust the time taken, if necessary. If you like, you can enable the display of a progress bar for each med that shows how far along in the cycle you are. And if you’re keeping track of how much of a medication is left, you can find the quantity right on the My Meds list.

Development of Easy Pill has been slow but steady over the last three years, perhaps reflecting the thoughtfulness of the developer. But I’m disappointed that in that time one feature important to me hasn’t been added: multiple patients. I could add my children’s names to the medications, I suppose, but it’s not quite as clean as having the feature built in.

Of the 27 apps I interviewed, Dosecast [App Store, $4 in-app purchase] was the final one. While looking at screenshots in the App Store, I wasn’t excited by the app’s design; however, its modest exterior belies the wealth of features inside.

Yes, it tracks medications taken. Yes, it reminds you to take your next dose after a pre-set number of hours. So it hits the two features that I’m needing now and includes (with the in-app purchase) the multi-patient feature that Easy Pill lacks. But wait…there’s more!

With the in-app purchase, you can track the doctor who prescribed the medication, as well as the pharmacy where you had the prescription filled; if you track the quantity, Dosecast will remind you when it’s time to refill. One nice touch is the ability to suspend reminders during bedtime hours, although I’d prefer that this be a per-patient and per-medication option. And I’m looking forward to their upcoming CloudSync service, which I hope will synchronize either select patients or individual medications between different users of the app—which would be great for me and my wife to coordinate our children’s schedules.

This is one of those times where I can’t have both form and function. Because Dosecast supports multiple patients, I’m reluctantly turning to it over Easy Pill to replace Pillboxie. But if you only need single-patient tracking, I wholeheartedly recommend Easy Pill—and I’ll keep my eye on it for future improvements in that area.