Kent State Researchers Use Digital Devices to Dispense Medications Safely

Organizing prescription medications in a traditional pill dispenser is not effective enough when patients are taking up to 20 different drugs seven to nine times a day. 

Not taking the medication at the right time or taking too much results in 700,000 emergency room visits a year, 325,000 hospitalizations and 125,000 deaths.

“It’s a trillion dollar problem to deal with medication nonadherence,” said Joel Hughes, Kent State associate psychology professor and director of the Applied Psychology Center at Kent State University.

“A lot of people can be helped if we can get a vast majority of them to take their medications correctly,” said Anthony Sterns, Ph.D., part-time faculty member in Kent State’s Department of Psychological Sciences and iRx Reminder CEO.

Sterns and Hughes have teamed up to create and patent the iLid Rx, which is a handheld, circular pod that contains and dispenses a prescription drug. 

The pill dispenser works in conjunction with an app that Hughes and Sterns also invented, with the help of Kent State student researchers, to remind patients when to take their meds. 

“We started to say we have this app for the iPhone and Android, and what if it talked to the medicine container,” Hughes said. “That’s the Holy Grail.”

Here is how the app and iLidRx work together.

A green light on the pod signals that it is time to take your medicine. You put your finger on the sensor, pick it up, tilt it and the pill comes out.

Taking the pill sends a series of messages; first to the app, which sends a message to a cloud-based server, and then sends a message to an electronic medical record.

“If you’ve forgotten to take your meds or have taken them at the wrong time, then you would receive an alert,” Stern said. “You never get the alert if you take it correctly.”

The alert is sent to your smart device such as the Apple Watch, tablet or smartphone with the name and a picture of the drug, along with options to take it or skip it. You also can snooze the alert.

All the pods, with all the different medications are housed in a cabinet. A display on the lid, like the app, also tells you what is inside and when to take it.  

Even though the iLid Rx is still a prototype, it is getting closer to undergoing clinical trials.  

“I want it to be a reality,” Hughes said. “As a researcher, there’s really not any profit motive. I just want it to exist because it will be the best intervention that I can come up with for people with a complicated medication regiment.”

Most of the funding has been raised, but a little more is still needed to help reach FDA clearance as a Class II Device.

Once it reaches that point, Hughes and Sterns say the system will significantly improve the accuracy of the data gathered in trials and ultimately save money. 

They say it will also help keep patients safer and recover more quickly by taking the right drugs at the right times.

“I’m very excited to do the big study that’s next, where everything works together and we show that we can improve medication adherence in a vulnerable population,” Hughes said.

Hughes and Sterns would like to thank the following groups for helping to fund the iLidRx: the National Institutes of Health, GLIDE and the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-Up fund.

For more information about Kent State’s Department of Psychological Sciences, visit

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Photo Caption:
Anthony Sterns, Ph.D., part-time faculty member in Kent State University’s Department of Psychological Sciences, and Joel Hughes, associate psychology professor at Kent State, created iLid Rx, a handheld, circular pod that contains and dispenses prescription drugs safely.

Media Contacts:
Joel Hughes,, 330-672-7721
Anthony Sterns,, 330-672-2197
Kristin Anderson,, 330-672-7907

POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 3:42pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 3:42pm
Kristin Anderson