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How Medical Reminders Help You Take Your Medicine on Time, Every Time

by: Claire Nulla
September 29, 2023

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 75% of elderly people aren’t taking their medications properly and 50% of medications prescribed for chronic diseases aren’t taken as directed.

Fortunately, there’s a range of medication reminders available to help make the process easier and more manageable. These tools can help reduce the risk of medication errors, improve medication adherence and ultimately lead to better health outcomes.

Medication reminders

Non-adherence to medicines is a real issue which can result in treatment ineffectiveness, complications and increased healthcare costs. This is particularly concerning for patients who are:

  • Part of the elderly population
  • Have chronic conditions require long-term medication use
  • Facing cognitive and physical challenges

Medication reminders may come in different forms, but they have one aim: to improve patient adherence to prescribed medications, which is crucial for positive health outcomes.

Types of medication reminders

Electronic reminders

This type of reminder uses technological devices such as smartphones and computers to schedule and remind you that it’s time to take your medicine

Electronic reminders may come in apps and tools that notify and alert you at specific times.


  • Improved adherence: Electronic reminders help patients stay on track and reduce the chances of missing doses.
  • Management of complex regimens: They assist patients in managing intricate medication schedules, especially those with multiple medications or specific timing requirements.
  • Customization: These reminders can be personalized to meet the patient’s needs, which increases their sense of control and responsibility.
  • Insightful data: The data from electronic reminder apps allow healthcare providers to identify trends and patterns that may impact treatment outcomes.


  • Technical difficulties: Patients may encounter issues with their devices, software, or connectivity, which can lead to missed reminders.
  • Device dependency: For electronic reminders to work effectively, patients must consistently have access to and remember to charge their devices.
  • Technological barriers: Some patients may be hesitant or may not know how to use these reminders.
  • Personal preferences: Some people may prefer alternative methods or find electric reminders intrusive.

Visual reminders

This medication reminder system is effective in giving patients a visual cue to take their medications. This is beneficial for older adults who may have difficulty remembering when to take their medicine.

Different types of visual reminders exist, such as:

  • Using a whiteboard to write down the times to take pills
  • Using stickers on medicine cabinets with a reminder on when and which medicine to take

Auditory reminders

For people who have trouble with visual cues, using sound-based reminders, such as alarms or alerts, is a helpful alternative.

The effectiveness of auditory reminders depends on the patients’ ability to hear and perceive the reminder. Choose a sound that’s easy to detect and recognize like high-pitched, repetitive chimes. The device should also be placed at a distance and volume that’s easy to hear, but not too loud or intrusive.


  • Easy to use and customizable: You can choose from a variety of sounds and tones, making the reminders personalized and less likely to be missed or ignored.
  • Integration with other electronic systems: Auditory reminders can be combined with other reminder systems for a more comprehensive and adaptable solution.


  • Limitations for patients with cognitive impairments: These reminders may be confusing or overwhelming for patients with cognitive impairments or dementia.
  • Discomfort with certain sounds: Some patients may find certain sounds unpleasant, which could discourage them from using auditory reminders
  • Challenges in noisy environments: This system may not be suitable for patients who work or live in noisy environments where background noise can drown out the reminder.

Physical reminders

Using physical reminders provides a tangible representation of the medication schedule. Some of them can also have an alarm or indicators to notify you when it’s time to take your medication.

These reminders come in different forms, such as:

  • Pill planners
  • Medication boxes
  • Blister packs

Benefits of medication reminders

Relying on medication reminders takes one thing off your mental load and makes taking medicine convenient.

The benefits of using reminder systems include:

  • Improved adherence: Following medication reminders makes patients more likely to adhere to their medication schedules.
  • Better health outcomes: For people who are managing chronic conditions or taking multiple medications, sticking to their medication routine leads to better health outcomes.
  • Reduced healthcare costs: By improving medication adherence, patients are less likely to experience complications or conditions that may result in costly hospitalization.
  • Increased independence: Using reminder systems allows patients, especially older adults, to maintain their independence and continue to live in their own homes for longer periods of time.

Challenges in using medication reminders

Technology limitations

Medication reminders and assistance technology offer many advantages, but they face limitations that hinder their effective use. For example:

  • Reliance on the internet and power supply, which may lead to usability issues during poor connectivity or power outages.
  • Some patients, especially the elderly, may struggle with using the technology due to physical or cognitive limitations.
  • Maintenance, software updates and technical glitches can affect the medication reminder’s accuracy and reliability

User error

Factors contributing to user error include:

  • Forgetting to take medication at the prescribed time
  • Taking the wrong medication due to confusion or lack of understanding
  • Taking the incorrect dosage, either by misreading instructions or misunderstanding dosing information
  • Self-adjusting medication dosage or frequency without consulting a healthcare provider
  • Mixing medications that shouldn’t be taken together
  • Missing doses or skipping medication altogether
  • Taking expired medication
  • Not following specific instructions, such as taking medication with food or on an empty stomach
  • Taking medication at inconsistent intervals or irregular schedules
  • Overdosing or underdosing


While these systems come with a price tag, there are affordable options available, especially for those who do not require advanced features.

To avoid extra costs, you may try the following:

  • Opt for free or affordable smartphone apps
  • Choose a system tailored to your or your patient’s needs without unnecessary features
  • Use insurance coverage provided by employers, if applicable
  • Exploring government assistance programs and nonprofit organizations

Privacy concerns

This is a real concern, especially when using electronic reminders. Here’s what you can do to avoid data breach:

  • Safeguard sensitive medical information
  • Use HIPAA-compliant apps
  • Avoid unsecured channels for sharing personal information
  • Monitor account activity
  • Being cautious about downloaded apps
  • Use strong passwords

Related questions

1. What is a medication reminder?

medication reminders are tools that help people take their medications by providing timely reminders or physical assistance. These may include pillboxes, electronic timers and smartphone apps.

2. What are the benefits of medication reminders and assistance?

The benefits of medication reminders include:

  • Improved medication adherence
  • Better health outcomes
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced risk of medication errors

3. What are the types of medication reminders?

Medication reminders come in various forms, including:

  • Pill dispensers
  • Smartphone apps
  • Electronic monitoring devices
  • Personal health record systems
  • Automated medication dispensers

4. Who can benefit from medication reminders?

Medication reminders and assistance can benefit anyone who takes medication, especially the elderly, those with chronic conditions and individuals who take multiple medications. It can also be useful for caregivers who manage medication schedules for others.

5. How do medication reminders work?

Medication reminders and assistance work by providing medication alerts or reminders at appropriate times. They may also provide visual or auditory cues to help users remember to take their medication. Some devices can even dispense medications automatically.

6. Are there any potential drawbacks to using medication reminders?

One potential drawback to using medication reminders is over-reliance on the technology or tool, leading to forgetfulness in the absence of the reminder. There may also be issues with accuracy and compatibility with certain medications and devices. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before using any medication reminder tool.

The bottom line

Medication reminders and assistance are critical for people who struggle to adhere to health conditions.

There are different options when it comes to medical reminders, so we recommend choosing one that suits your preference and lifestyle.