Talking Pill Bottles Part 2: The Talking Devices and Where to Get Them [Update 3 -A Breakthrough for Some Medicare Plans]

Hand holding a medication bottle on top of a white ScripTalk and a finger of the other hand pressing a button on the device.

 

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.

 

31 thoughts on “Talking Pill Bottles Part 2: The Talking Devices and Where to Get Them [Update 3 -A Breakthrough for Some Medicare Plans]

  1. I’ve called all 7 local Walgreen’s to find out if they’re available here. All but 2 stores had only one and they were out on the retail shelves. Another store had none but could get them the next day if ordered, the other store had several. The information that the staff had was little to none. some knew that documentation was needed to get a prescription filled with a cap at no cost but they didn’t know what was required. I also asked what font size their large print information sheets are in, no one seemed to know. I heard form most stores that the pharmacy manager would need to answer any questions but all managers seem to not come in until mid afternoon.
    I intend to go to one of the stores to pick up the one cap they have to check it out.

    1. Thank you for this update Marja . I have been kept dangling by Walgreens about requested information. Pity they didn’t do a better job with this. 30 seconds is very short and the information on the label will not fit , but at least there can be the name of the medication and the dosage. Hannah

    2. A not so funny thing just happened. I switched all of my prescriptions over to OptumRx as soon as I heard they would be participating in ScripTalk and the customer service agent sent my info to En-Vision and I got my machine. I just went to order refills and when I enquired about receiving the ScripTalk lables on my medicines I was told they did not offer such a service and that was not possible. I just wrote them back to ask what changed and am waiting for a reply. I am so disappointed, annoyed and a little confused!
      Has anyone else had any dealings with OptumRx yet?

      1. Hi Betsy,
        I am so sorry you got this response. I suggest you call Amanda Tollson at En-vision America. OptumRx definitely announced this. When I called them the regular prescription assistant knew nothing, but with perseverance I got put through to someone who said it would take a while to get it set up and they would call me when it was. I will phone again and try to get more exact details.

        1. Thanks to Amanda and a very nice lady with OptumRx I think we’ve gotten it straightened out and the people who told me they didn’t offer ScripTalk were reeducated.
          All’s well that ends well.

    1. Yes but Walgreens still haven’t got back to me with the details of mail order prescriptions and talking pill reminders , or what the process is to be approved for the free talking reminders.Not good! Hannah

      1. Hannah,
        I have heard back from one of the pharmacy managers that called and left a message in the evening. I don’t know if the timing was intentional, calling after normal business hours. He stated that he needed to get more information about this new program and that he would get back to me. Clearly the roll out on this program was done in haste and not well communicated to their stores.
        I have purchased one for us to try out in our office. Our executive director is a braille reader and though legally blind I have good central acuity. The instructions do include braille that is not easy to read, the printed instructions are in a 10 point font which needs magnification or someone with good vision. The device is not a cap as it appeared to me, it adheres to the bottom of the pill bottle. There is 30 seconds to record which doesn’t allow for very much information. There is no way to use headphones so the message will be heard by others though it is simple enough to use. I’m sure it will not be loud or clear enough for some people with hearing impairment. The timer has been alarming consistently going off at the 24 hour interval we’ve set. This device may be beneficial to some Walgreen’s customers.If we ever find out the documentation needed to get them put on your script the pharmacist will record it for you and should be instructing you how to use it.
        Marja

  2. Has anyone heard anything about accessaMed.com? This seems to be another great option, but I’m not hearing much about it yet. I plan to call them some time this week for mor information.

    1. Hi Betsy,
      No I haven’t heard about it. If you get some useful information, please send another comment or email me, and I will update the post again. Meanwhile I am searching for anyone who uses OptumRx as their mail order pharmacy. If a group of us can get together maybe we could put some pressure on United Health Insurance.

      1. I would love to use OptumRX, so please tell me how I can help. I emailed them several months ago and never got a response so do not know if they even got my note. I will call AccessAMMed tomorrow and let you know when I find out more about them because they could be what we need to pitch to Optum and United. I had spoken with someone from United a few months back as well and she seemed very interested in the subject, but did not point me in the right direction to discuss it further with anyone there.

        1. Please do, and let us all know about AccessAMed. I have just updated the blog post again with further information from a lawyer who is working to improve access to prescription labels. She said she would be willing to help with Optum especially if there were a group of people.

      2. Are you actually using optumRX now and if so, have you spoken to anyone about talking prescription options? I have no idea who to talk to there, but I have time to try to actually get them to do something if I can get pointed in the right direction.

  3. I called Walgreen’s corporate office to speak with their head of pharmacy services. The lady answering the phone asked for my zip code before she would transfer my call. I explained that I was wanting information on a more national level about their “Talking Pill Reminder” program. At that point she chose to not transfer my call and deal with it herself. I asked what documentation of vision loss was needed, the information from the press release stated that it would be required. I also mentioned that there are other types of print disability beside vision loss that should be included. She got pretty chilly with me at that point and told me that all that is needed is to request the talking pill reminder be used. She told me that the pharmacist cannot set the timer, that’s up to the consumer. I also asked what font size is used for their large print information, what seems large to someone with normal vision is not necessarily so for someone visually impaired. She took my phone number to have a local pharmacy manager contact me. This is the same manager that I’m still waiting for a call back about their program. Basically my call seemed pretty pointless!
    I have a call in to Accessamed to find out how their program works. I have seen information about their device which stays on the bottle but I want details. Their website has a sheet that consumers can print out to give to their pharmacist requesting accessible labeling including their phone number. I will give this to my pharmacy today. When I get more info I’ll post it. The law requiring accessible labeling goes into effect next January.

    1. I didn’t know that providing accessible prescription labels is scheduled to become law in January. If so all the big pharmacies will presumably have to do it. Yes Walgreens seems to have changed their policy on providing documentation, now nothing is needed except the request.

      1. Folks,

        Just to update you. I was able to get the Scriptalk system installed into my local Wal Mart in Methuen, Massachusetts. My Wal Mart is 70 Pleasant Valley Street in Methuen, Mass and my insurance prescription drug coverage has Wal Mart as their preferred pharmacy.

        I took the first swipe on Monday, November 24, 2014 at about 2:05 PM. I like the Scriptalk unit, because it is more universally designed and with its capability of being able to hook up to a computer through a USB cable and the Scriptalk user software and for some of you, including the deaf/blind who use Braille displays, you would also be able to get your prescriptions that way in accessible format.

        I thank Wal Mart for having the heart to care about the blind.

        1. Hey! It’s great to hear someone is using the best available equipment for making prescription labels fully accessible – and using it successfully . It keeps those of us who are still waiting hopeful.

  4. I just received the following email from Chad with AccessaMed.
    “Greetings Betsy,

    My name is Chad and I am the Director of Community Outreach for AccessaMed. Thank you for your interest in our Digital Audio Label for accessible prescription drug labeling. At this time, we are negotiated with several pharmacies about getting our solution for accessible prescription labeling into pharmacies. With regard to your mail-order pharmacist, you can either have them get in contact with at through our webpage to learn how they can provide the Digital Audio Label for your prescriptions, or you can get information off of our webpage to take to them. We are finding out that many pharmacies are unaware of what solutions even exist, or that they even need to provide some kind of accessible solution. Please feel free to contat me, personally, through the webpage or my phone number, if you like, and let me know how I can help. Thank you and let’s make sure our voice is heard.

    Chad Hazen
    Director of Community Outreach
    AccessaMed inc.
    360-696-5955”
    http://www.accessamed.com

  5. observations.

    Mail order pharmacies: The prescriptions you have now may multiply as you get older, and you could end up taking many more. You may have to pay a shipping and handling for mail order , and there can be delays in receiving your medications around holiday times.

    Walgreen’s talking pill minder is not accessible for those who are both legally or totally blind and hard of hearing or deaf/blind. I already contacted the headquarters of Walgreen’s on July 29, 2014 and spoke to a person named Melissa in the Executive assistance office at their main corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Il

    script talk from En-Vision America: The station now has a u s b port on the back of the reader, to which you can hook up the patient reader to a computer and also with the user software, when the device is hooked onto the computer’s USB Port, and on the right com port, the information on the labeling comes up in both large print on the computer and in audible format and then the medication name has a link to it to bring up another webpage that gives you the warnings and contra indications.

    Guys, start a letter writing campaign to all of the corporate headquarters, especially, Rite Aid and CVS in Woonsocket, RI and get the script Talk into your local CVS and also the CVS on 27 Main Street in Watertown, Mass 02472. Why? Watertown is the home town to Perkins where Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan Macy attended and ultimately created a miracle for us. .

    DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT ME AT 978 702-9403.

  6. Hi Folks:
    As a pharmacist, I truly appreciate that accessibility in prescription labels is finally being addressed. Next, lets talk about those paper hand outs that come with the medication (Consumer Medication Information). I am the Owner and President of a company called AudibleRx and we provide the first Consumer Medication Information available in Audible Format, for FREE on the website, android or iphone app. Please take a look and pass it on and feel free to contact me with any questions.
    Thanks
    Steve Leuck, Pharm.D.
    http://www.AudibleRx.com
    AudibleRx@gmail.com
    831-247-7231

  7. It is about time that we have a head of a pharmacy and owner of a pharmacy also doing the consumer paper handouts that also need to be put in accessible format for those who are blind and visually impaired. There also needs to be a solution to cover the deaf/blind population in this matter.

    we cannot let any disabled person get left behind in all facets of life.

    So, should these special needs schools and rehabilitation centers that train disabled people towards independence show this assistive technology and let consumers know that it is out there and the need for advocacy for it. ABSOLUTELY!

    1. The ScripTalk does give access to the information sheet about the drug. I quite agree about the need for prescription details to be available for people with vision loss combined with other disabilities including behavioral ones. And as you say for people who have to take many pills each day. At least this is a start.

    2. I am so glad this was helpful, Betsy, hopefully other mail order pharmacies and Walgreen Pharmacy will improve their offerings.

  8. I say even the caregivers can benefit from the Scriptalk, because, like the curb cuts and wheelchair ramps and elevators in buildings, these things had not only benefited the disabled, but, also benefited parents with babies and people who are using dollies to wheel heavy loads, these curb cuts and wheelchair ramps had been beneficial to all people of all walks of life.

    As to people having behavioral problems and managing their own medications, if they are severely developmentally delayed, that they do not even know, for instance, that they may be touching you in the wrong place, and yet, you know they are, but, you do not consent to it. If that is the case, how would they even know what medications they are supposed to be taking. This is where the caregiver and the Scfriptalk comes in. The Scriptalk would be beneficial to the caregiver or the family member who is taking care of such person to make sure that they are getting the correct medications, especially, that of a life saving medication and even psychotropic medications. This is why it is really important that us blind folks really get on this issue, because, we could also pave the pathway for even caregivers in this arena.

  9. I’m 33 I’ve been extremely visually impaired for 3 years it’s been tough….medication is the hardest you get down pat I make 800 per month and would love to have one…. please e-mail me if any way for a little help…GOD bless you…loren gordon

    1. Hi Loreno,
      I am so sorry that you are having to deal with severe vision loss on such a restricted income. I hope that you have a counselor at your state Commission for the Blind who is working closely with you. If not please get yourself a counselor. They are sometimes called vocational counselors. I hope too that you are receiving medications on the Medicaid program. With regard to medication labels that talk, I suggest you phone Envision America at (800) 890-1180. They are likely to know what your insurance program offers. Best wishes,

  10. Hi everyone,
    This is June from En-Vision America. We are the makers of ScripTalk as well as the ID Mate talking bar code scanner.
    Anyone who needs accessible labels can get them for FREE at a participating pharmacy. That includes talking labels, large print and Braille labels.
    To get it all you have to do is ask your pharmacist if they offer ScripTalk talking labels (or any of the other varieties.)
    If your pharmacist does not offer accessible labels, or the clerk doesn’t know for sure, call us at 1-800-890-1180 and we will work with your pharmacist to arrange it for you. If they don’t offer the service, we will help you find a participating pharmacy in your area!
    You can also search for a participating pharmacist here: http://www.envisionamerica.com/ourpharmacies
    I hope this helps. We really want everyone who needs accessible labels to have this service. Follow us on Facebook to hear the latest updates https://facebook.com/EnVisionAmerica/ Thanks everyone.
    June Robbins

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