Goodness, hasn’t this year gone quickly? I feel as though every post I’ve written recently has in some way apologised for my lack consistent blogging. As I’m not one to break with tradition, here I am, apologising once again.
Things have been extremely difficult over the last few months, and I’ve been trying to balance the worst flare up I’ve had in years with starting my job at the BBC. My Instagram posting has suffered (again) as a result, but I’m trying to share on there more regularly. If you’re really super duper missing me oh so very much, the best place to find my updates recently has been on Twitter. I am somewhat prone to a ranty thread or six.
With all that being said, my online resolution for the new year is to try and get back to regular blogging. I’ve actually missed it more than I thought I would.
One of the things I want to start doing more of is reviews of products that are targeted at those of us with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
It’s actually quite funny slash sad that when I was a ‘wellness’ (ugh) blogger, I had a lot more opportunities to do this. Many brands, clearly, don’t find us a sexy enough audience (literally things I’ve heard said by some dickhead brand people). But I’ve been pleased to see an increase in both apps and physical products that don’t look they’ve come out of a hospital for the elderly reaching the market. Because the purple pound is totally a thing, you guys.
Today, I’ll be reviewing Medsmart, a medication reminder app. Full disclosure, this is a sponsored review, but I am providing 100% my honest opinion. Read on to find out more.
So, what is Medsmart?
I was really excited by the idea of Medsmart as a tool to help people track and manage their medications.
I’m not actually taking a confusing amount of drugs at the moment – I always seem to have horrific reactions that make me want to die (#spoonielife) – so right now I mainly use my my weekly morphine patches, liquid morphine for breakthrough pain, anti-inflammatories as and when I need them (with tummy liners, obviously) , and vitamins to help keep some of my low levels high.
In the past, however, I have had pill-box organiser things stuffed to the brim with different medications, and remembering when to take different meds (and how to take them) could be a nightmare when timings were scattered confusingly throughout the day.
I currently rely on memory for my vitamins (which I’m getting better at), and an alarm on my phone to change my patch weekly. I have next to no memory of the names of the meds I’ve tried in the past – I think my brain has tried to erase them (except the ones that made me psychotic and will never be erased. Bastard pills).
How can an app help manage medication? Here’s what Medsmart have to say:
“Medsmart make it easier to take control of your medicines! Manage your medicines by finding and scanning the barcode on the medicine pack, set up smart reminders for when you need to take your medicines and share your medicine cabinet with yourself or others. Medsmart will log if you have taken your medicines and can allow you to keep a record of this with you at all times. You can also find trusted information about your medicines and link it to your health condition. The more information you provide for your profile, medicines and health conditions, the more Medsmart can help you take control of your medicines and your health!”
The reasoning behind all of this, they argue is that “medical adherence rate across health conditions worldwide is at best 50%. Many healthcare consumers do not follow instructions to take medicines at the right time, in the right way and for the right duration”. Now, obviously, I have no way of fact-checking these numbers, but it seems like a pretty reasonable place to start. I definitely have a lot of friends who have been taking meds at the wrong time of day (through no fault of their own) and having unnecessary negative interactions or side effects.
Sounds cool! Let’s have a look at the app!
First things first, the app is free and available for Apple and Android devices. Which is always something I approve of. Especially as I’ve downloaded so many apps over the years that I’ve paid for and never used again. I also just appreciate it when there are tools for us sickies that don’t add on any extra costs to our already stuffed list of bills.
Once I’d downloaded and opened the app, I was surprised to be greeted by a video of a woman explaining what the app was – not a tutorial – just a very short introduction. Honestly, it felt a bit corporate to me, and I generally don’t like videos of people in my apps. But that’s just a personal preference, and I’m mostly used to seeing animated intros if anything. I’m quite picky and don’t like to ‘engage’ with apps beyond the very specific use I have for them, but I’m sure many people will appreciate it. I would say that the video (and all others on the app) should consider adding captions to make things more accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
That’s over with in under a minute, and then you can sign up to create an account by linking your Facebook or your email. It’s all super simple and similar to the way you register for most apps.
And so we arrive at our Medicine Cabinet.
I really appreciate that there’s a really clear, simple tutorial when we first open the app to help us find our way around quickly. It can also be reset at the swipe of a button in the options if you need a refresh.
The main page of the Medicine Cabinet will show you all of the details of the medicines that you’ve chosen to add at a glance.
I was easily able to add Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (without having to type it all out!), and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If one of your conditions isn’t listed, you just continue to type it and swipe to add it to your list (as I would have had to do with Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Disorder).
I loved that adding a medicine was as simple as scanning the barcode. In my tests, it worked immediately with both of my current medications, although it did not pick up my vitamins or paracetamol from Tesco. Which I wasn’t really expecting it to.
If your medication doesn’t scan, you can manually add in the barcode, but if that isn’t recognised, you’ll get a pop-up saying that it isn’t registered in the app and they hope to activate it soon. Perhaps an option to manually add would be helpful in this case.
Oh, and because some medications have really long and complicated names, there’s the option to rename it (just in your cabinet) to make it something easier to remember. Or just for ease – instead of saying Cilest or Yasmin, you could just write “The Pill”.
You can also add any allergies you have manually, which the app will then use to keep track of potential conflicts with anything you’re taking, as well as conflicts between prescriptions themselves. This also comes into effect whenever you add a new medication, as you can see here with my BuTrans patches.
You will then select who the medication is for (more on that later), and the condition or symptoms that you’re taking it for – so, for example, I can link these patches to my EDS, or in the past I could have linked those bloody itch-inducing midodrine pills for my blood pressure to PoTS.
One of the most useful features for me, is the ability to set reminders and actually track medication use.
This is incredibly simple to set up, and the app will send you push notifications whenever you set the reminders to pop up. You can also actively record whether you’ve taken, skipped, or rescheduled your medication.
This is probably one of my favourite features that they have to offer, as I (and many people I know) have inadvertently doubled up or missed meds in a day because brain fog has caused us to forget whether or not we’ve actually taken them. When you’ve got a whole lotta stuff to keep on top of, it’s a fantastic way to not only be reminded of when you need to take them, but to remind yourself that yes, Natasha, you did take your pill already, in case you’re feeling a bit unsure on any given day. You can also see a calendar for the day of the meds you need to take when, so it’s all nice and laid out in one place. With this option you can backwards and forwards in time, so if you’re going away for a few days you’ll be able to see at a glance what you need to prep and take with you. Super handy.
There are a couple of other features that I think make the app really useful:
Firstly, there’s the ability to set up multiple profiles and cabinets to keep track, for example, of a whole family. It’s something that my mum probably would have found pretty useful when there were four of us in the house all taking a bunch of different meds at the same time. It could also be a great way for carers who look after people who struggle to keep on top of their medication. I think this feature could be made even more helpful by having an option to add a reminder of when to get new prescriptions, especially when doing so for other people.
And secondly, there’s the ability to export your medicine log, or the one of someone you’re caring for, at the tap of a button to either your email address or anywhere else you may need it to go.
I can imagine this being extremely helpful if you have to go and see and endless parade of doctors and struggle to remember the increasingly long lists of medications that you’re currently on (or have been on in the past). I’m honestly at the point where I literally can’t recall the names of most of them. This could also be fab when you’re travelling, although I would always take my official prescriptions with me (I also do that when I’m travelling with my liquid morphine in case they get fussy at the airports) and I think that there could be a medical issue.
Medsmart say that you can unlock information about the medicine’s ingredients (the ingredient list on Omeprazole just said Omeprazole – which, was kind of obvious. I think knowing the bulking agents etc that some people can have reactions to would also be really helpful), side effects and interactions as part of the app. However, I wasn’t able to see this for my BuTrans, but I know they’re working on developing this content all the time, and it’s a feature that I’d find incredibly useful.
As someone who has often suffered from signifiant side-effects to stuff I’ve taken over the years, the ability to see a simplified version of the leaflet on my phone, or be able to get more information about what I could expect, would be absolutely fantastic, especially as some of the more ‘peculiar’ side-effects sent me into a frantic Google frenzy back in the day.
I’m looking forward to seeing this content when it’s released.
They also say that they’re working on adding video content throughout the app to explain how different medications work and how to take them. Again, I wasn’t able to test much of this out, since there wasn’t really anything available for my meds. There was a video available when I scanned Omeprazole, which had a man showing you how to take a pill, so not all that helpful for me – a pill taking machine. Again, captions would be a great addition here.
I’d be curious to know if there are going to be more product-specific videos in the future. Personally, I don’t use tracking apps to watch videos or talk to other people, so this isn’t really targeted for me, but I see how it could be for people who are more in need of the information, people who are more interested in that side of stuff than I am, and people who are newer to lots of medication.
There’s one side of the app that I haven’t totally got to grips with and that’s the way they’re planning to use the data. As you can see in a bunch of the pictures above, there are a few smiley faces that ask how you’re feeling that day. You can input that data and make that choice, but then there doesn’t seem to be any active reason on the app itself for it. It could just be a way to get you to start checking in with yourself and engaging in a simple way with the app on a daily basis, it just seems a bit confusing to me when other apps I’ve used have had me do similar things in order to better track my mood.
Additionally, the company that owns the app has a portal which collects and collates a whole bunch of data on the use of medication, so the data that you input into the app will anonymously go and feed this portal to help them gain more insights into how people use medication across different conditions. It’s something to be aware of if you’re not comfortable with your medical data (even anonymously) being sent from the app. This, I think, could have been made clearer on the app itself, as I had to actively look and email to find out more information.
Overall, I really enjoyed the process of learning about this app and I think it would have been really useful for me if it had come into my life about five years ago when I had much more trouble remembering to take my meds (once-a-week patch changing isn’t too hard to remember!).
First and foremost, I see a lot of value in it as a reminder and tracking tool. I really appreciated how easy it was to add medications and medical information, and love how it will help make it near-on impossible (unless you’re having a ‘I don’t wanna look at my phone day) to forget to take your meds.
I also love the idea of keeping it as a record (but suspended on the app) of the medications that I stopped taking, so I could have them easily at hand when a professor would spent ten minutes telling me to take a miracle drug that I’d already taken. And the ability to quickly export my information (and keep track of family members) are also great features.
So if you’re looking to test out a medication tracker, I’d definitely recommend giving Medsmart a go. You can download it for free on App Store here and get it on Google Play here. For more information, you can visit website here.