Yesterday September 30 2014 OptumRX, the mail order pharmacy for some large insurance companies including United Health Care, announced that it is beginning the roll out of the ScriptTalk medication label reader. (Check the photo above and the original post below.) ScripTalk is the premier talking medication label device. As well as the full details on the label, you can access the information about your drug such as side effects . Alternatively Optum will provide labels in braille or on a genuinely large print label, attached to the pill bottle.
This is a big break through as United Health Care covers some Medicare health plans. Call EnVision America at (800) 890-1180 if your mail order pharmacy is OptumRx for more details.
By contrast the Talking Pill Reminder which Walgreen Pharmacy rolled out at the end of May is disappointing. It is quite small, and the speaker is too tiny to give sufficient volume for anyone beginning to lose hearing, as most seniors are to some extent. Seniors make up by far the largest proportion of people with vision loss. Unfortunately you have to waste the battery life with a medication alarm, which is a good idea but people with regular medications mostly do not need it. The battery in my pill reminder died after only a couple of months. The recording time is also very short – only 30 seconds, which is not enough time for the clear pronunciation of difficult drug names plus dosage and repeat prescription details.
I feel sad that Walgreen which was so efficient by phone when I was a mail order customer, has chosen this device instead of something that could contribute much more to the safety of the blindness community with medications.
Last week’s blog post discussed the efforts that a few large pharmacies have made in the past 2 years to offer prescription labels that talk. In a nutshell, 3 pharmacies have made talking medication labels available. They are Walmart, CVS and Walgreens. You can usually choose a local pharmacy to get pill bottles that talk, but prescription plans are tied to a single mail order pharmacy associated with your health insurance. So you may have to choose between the efficiency and savings of mail order meds and having those pill bottles talk.
ScripTalk is an electronic device which Walmart and CVS mail order pharmacies will provide to anyone who can’t read print. They do not ask for any proof of blindness or other paperwork. If you are already using either of them for your mail order prescriptions, you can ask for a ScripTalk to be sent to you. CVS only provides this service for mail order customers, but Walmart also offers it at 36 brick and mortar pharmacies. You can call your nearest Walmart and ask if they have the ScripTalk service, or call EnVision America at (800) 890-1180 and find out what pharmacy options you have in your state.
The ScripTalk is free but on loan, and has to be returned if you change pharmacies. It is a round device about 6 inches across and 2 inches thick. It’s a bit like a chunkier version of those portable CD players people used to carry around.
When your medication arrives, you place the medication against the ScripTalk and it reads the whole label. The device doesn’t like being dropped or getting wet so you need a safe dry spot to keep it. Even better, hang it on a wall using the hanger on the back.
The Walgreens device is called the Talking Pill Reminder. It has had some delays and changes since the press release in May. No paperwork or proof of blindness is needed for this device either. Walgreens prescription customers need only ask for a device (or more than one) when the prescription is being filled. If you are a Walgreens Mail order customer call 800-345-1985 and ask to speak with a customer advocate.(I hope that there is more awareness of this new service at Walgreens mail order now.) The prescription information is recorded by the pharmacist on the base of the medication, and there is a button you push to hear it. The recording lasts only 30 seconds. You bring back the talking pill bottle for refills.
Lainey Feingold,a lawyer interested in accessible prescriptions has sent this update:
Health Insurance Accessibility: WellPoint health insurance giant has made a big commitment to access for blind members – and they own Blue Cross and Blue Shield operations (including Anthem companies) around the country. Learn more and send feedback on the accessibility initiative: http://lflegal.com/2014/07/wellpoint-blue/
If your prescription plan does not allow you to use any of these pharmacies, you can still have pill bottles that talk, just not free of charge! Walgreens sells the talking pill reminder bottles for $9.99 each, so you can have someone record the label on your pills for you. If you have a lot of prescriptions, the price would add up at $10 a bottle. It’s still much better value than the talking pill memo in one of the adaptive catalogs. Alternatively, you can consider buying (or asking your state commission for the blind to buy you) the PenFriend. This is a talking labeler. The PenFriend is a valuable device with a lot of uses. I’ll devote a blog post to it soon.
Do you have tips to share about knowing details of your meds? Please comment and share them with the rest of us.