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Talking Prescriptions Help "read" Labels

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: This article is reprinted with permission of iCan News Service, April 9, 2001.

Talking prescription bottles are available for those with low vision to help them reliably identify their medications and follow the instructions printed on the label. Both Aloud and ScripTalk use "smart" labels with embedded microchips that contain information about the prescription. A portable reading device then translates the contents of the microchip into speech, so that the user can "hear" what the medication is and how to use it.

If you have trouble reading the labels on your prescription bottles, wouldn't it be nice if you could listen to them instead? Why run the risk of possibly taking the wrong medication or using the inappropriate dosage because written labels are not suited to your abilities? Now there are devices available that let your prescription bottles tell you what medication is inside and how to properly use it.

Two products that provide this capability are called Aloud and ScripTalk Both systems employ "smart labels" that are affixed to the prescription bottle and contain tiny, embedded microchips. The microchips are pre-programmed at the pharmacy with information such as patient name, prescription number, type of medication, recommended dosage, and number of refills. This information is translated to audible speech when the patient engages the bottle's label with a special reading device, allowing the patient to hear the information stored on the microchip. When a prescription runs out, the audio label is returned to the pharmacy to be reprogrammed and used on a new medication container.

The reading devices used by each system are slightly different. The Aloud system's audio label replay unit is a small cylindrical stand that is slightly larger than a typical prescription bottle. When the audio-labeled bottle is placed in the stand and pressed downward, the prescription information is read audibly. The ScripTalk reader is a wireless, hand-held box that's about the same size as a deck of cards. When the prescription bottle is brought within an inch of the reader, the information contained in the smart label is converted into audible speech.

The costs associated with these systems include the prices of the reading device and the audio labels. The Aloud replay unit is available at no charge from Rx Partners when using their mail-order prescription services. The ScripTalk reader will be priced at around $200 when the system becomes available later this summer. However, some health insurance policies may cover this cost for qualified recipients. Participating pharmacies may offer special pricing as well. Audio labels are typically available for a one-time fixed cost of about $20, or are paid for by adding a minimal charge (e.g. $1) to the cost of each prescription issued, depending on the individual pharmacy.

For those who are blind, have low vision, or have difficulty with printed text, a talking prescription system can bring them peace of mind and independence when it comes to using their medications properly.

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