The system allows you to focus on what matters most in your life, not on managing pills.
For a number of years, we’ve been helping my grandmother manage her daily schedule. This includes taking her medicine, eating at regular times, and drinking water among other activities. She is a cancer survivor and spends her days watching old movies on cable, reading the newspaper, and working crossword puzzles. The biggest issue she has is that she forgets to take her medicine at the right time and she forgets to eats sometimes because she doesn’t have a regular appetite anymore. We’ve tried for a long time to help her remember, but she gets frustrated because she’s so independent. So, we started looking for alternative options to help her remember and be independent. The Pria Smart Medication Assistant ended up being a good option for her situation.
Pria by BLACK+DECKER was born out of a partnership between Pillo Health, BLACK+DECKER, and STANLEY Healthcare. It’s the first commercial STANLEY Healthcare product from BLACK+DECKER and it provides an innovative solution for more efficient personal care in the home. Pria is a HIPAA-compliant platform provided to consumers through a voice-enabled tabletop robot that facilitates in-home healthcare management. Users can schedule up to 28 medication doses and receive reminders of when to take medications. Family and caregivers have the opportunity to check-in on their loved ones to ensure they are keeping up with their prescribed medications. Pria even provides the option for two-way video calls.
The Pillo Health technology is what powers Pria. It leverages facial recognition and AI to help adults maintain independence and wellness in their homes. The robot features a built-in camera and microphone that can be used both for communicating with the Pria system and also with healthcare professionals and family members.
“Our goal is to help Pria by BLACK+DECKER address the needs of people who want to improve their quality of life and safety while living in the comfort of their own homes,” said Emanuele Musini, co-founder and CEO of Pillo Health.
“Pria is the first true home care companion designed specifically to facilitate the wellbeing of independent individuals at home, while providing a platform for caregivers to monitor and manage the delivery of medication and care plans,” said Sean O’Brien, director, Health-at-Home Technologies, Stanley Healthcare. “Collaborating with Pillo Health helped us bring Pria to market quickly and collectively address two critical care-focused market segments.”
Pria is not a small device. This is the first thing I noticed when I unboxed it. It stands a little over a foot tall and weighs more than 8 pounds. The actual dimensions are 8.5 x 6.2 x 12.5 inches. This is important to note because you really have to plan a place for it to live so that it’s easily accessible and has access to power. Along those lines, I want to mention that the Pria does actually have a battery backup built-in. This is charged through the regular power connection and it lasts 4-8 hours depending on power usage of the robot. The battery is included in the event there is a power outage.
The concept behind Pria is rather simple. You load medication into the dispenser and then set the reminders on the app. Then, when the reminder pops up on the schedule, a pill is dispensed. What makes the Pria special is the fact that it’s an easy-to-use connected device. As I mentioned in the Details section above, Pria provides an option for two-way communication and it also provides the option for patient monitoring through the companion app option. We’ve been testing this device out for a while now in our house so I thought I would outline the things I like along with the areas of the system I think could use some improvements.
Things I like:
- Easy Set-up – The Pria’s set-up process is pretty simple. It comes preassembled and once you get the account set-up in the app, the robot walks you through the rest of the process. There are tutorials built into the set-up process, which is great for learning how the system works. The only cumbersome part of the process is loading the medication. The best way to do it is to load each pill, one at a time, through the pill slot on the top of the robot. You can open the back of the Pria up to access the pill wheel and load medications manually, but I found that the robot doesn’t seem to detect the pills as well as if they are inserted using the automatic loading system during set-up.
- Automatic Dispensing of Medication: This is obviously one of the main selling points of the Pria system, but I wanted to point out as one of my favorite features. The fact that the robot can dispense medications on a schedule is remarkable and it really makes it possible for adults to remain independent.
- Provides an Option for Guided Independence: In addition to the medication dispensing, Pria has a function that enables additional types of reminders to be scheduled. For people like my grandmother, being able to set a reminder for someone to eat a meal or drink water, it’s an invaluable feature and it really makes it possible for people using Pria to maintain good health practices.
- Updates: While I was in the process of testing the Pria I discovered that the software was updated automatically and a new feature was added — a COVID-19 Self Checker. It’s basically just a quick questionnaire that lets users know if they should seek medical attention. I thought this was a great add-on considering the target population for the Pria is also the high-risk population for COVID-19.
Things I don’t like:
- Expense: Pria is expensive. I typically don’t like to call out a product as expensive, but Pria is extremely pricy. Not only is the initial cost of the device extremely high — $650 USD or more — and there is a monthly subscription required to use the Pria software. You also have to have a smartphone (or tablet) available to connect to the Pria system. This is a huge investment in one system. And a lot of seniors and people who are disabled live on a fixed income. Even if they had the lump sum to be able to purchase the device alone, the continuing monthly subscription could be the difference between a month of usage with Pria or a month of a prescription for some people.
- Security: While there is a certain amount of security built into this system since you can always double-check how much medicine is left, if someone wanted to, they could just open the back and access all the medication at once. There is no lock or alarm installed on the device. Pria does send a message to those who receive notifications for the account that the back has been opened, but that’s it.
- Learning Curve for Non-tech Users: I am well-versed at using smartphones and tablets. I use them every day. My grandmother uses an iPad for playing solitaire and reading her newspaper, but she is far from an active user. For me, it wasn’t hard to set-up, but I could see some people who are not tech-savvy find it difficult to use.
Pria is available for purchase directly from the Pria website and Amazon. At launch, the device retailed for $749.99. Now, the Pria can be found for online purchase for as low as $652.00 (Amazon).
I love the fact that there is an in-home solution for medication management. Pria has marked a lot of the checkboxes off for me as far as being a caregiver for my grandmother. There are a few aspects of the device that I feel could be improved on (as noted above), but it’s not a bad system. I think it’s very cost-prohibitive especially for seniors who are on a fixed income. There is a lot of technology innovations built into the Pria, but I really think it would benefit from a lower price-point.