Figures from the US Institute of Medicine suggest that medication errors in US hospitals are the cause of around 98,000 deaths each year. In addition, up to two million people in the US are hospitalised annually from side effects or reactions to prescription drugs.
This isn’t, however, due to allergic reactions or allergies suffered by the unfortunate patient. The problem is caused when the patient is unable to read the small print on the label.
But a new device developed by US company En-Vision America allows those with visual impairments to manage their medication in a safer way.
Dubbed ScripTalk, the new talking label system for the visually impaired is handheld, portable, and identifies the contents of medicine bottles.
It does this by reading the prescription information stored in the memory of a radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip embedded in a smart label.
The patient holds the ScripTalk near the RFID-labelled container, which then identifies the drug and generates speech that tells the patient what the contents of the bottle are.
The device also informs the listener of the name of the patient (for those occasional mix-ups), the name of the drug, the dosage, general instructions and warnings.
The ScripTalk reader is part of a larger system that takes in a special thermal label printer/RFID encoder for printing and encoding the ‘smart labels’ at the pharmacists. When a patient using a scriptalk reader submits a prescription, the pharmacy software prints a ‘smart label’.
En-Vision America is currently field testing the ScripTalk system with the US Veterans Administration. En-Vision America says ScripTalk readers and Smart-Label printers will be available in early 2001.