Have You Heard of EMMA?
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
Marvin Spieler
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Have You Heard of EMMA?
(Electronic Medication Management Assistance System)

Latest Technology in Medication Management: Is EMMA for you?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a machine that would help us to take prescribed medicine at the proper time and in the proper dosage? That machine is now a reality.

At a recent RAC meeting in Albany, a new machine to assist people in managing their medication was demonstrated. EMMA (Electronic Medication Management Assistance System) is designed to dispense medication according to a programmed schedule that can be controlled electronically by your pharmacist or physician. I was very impressed with the potential of this machine to benefit consumers who need assistance taking their medications.

I support anything which has the potential to help my peers return to less restrictive living situations in the community. Consider those who have spent so many years in adult homes. Their lives have been taken out of their control. They are told when to get up in the morning, when to eat their meals, and what they should be doing during the day. Medications are dispensed by standing on long lines, and given out by adult home staff with frequent errors that go unrecognized.

There is currently an OMH priority for adult home residents to get supported housing. Applicants must develop ADL skills such as cooking, shopping, laundry, housekeeping, budgeting their money and numerous safety issues as well as managing their own medication schedules. Our peers have a lot to do to prove they are capable of living independently in the community.

Knowing when to take which medication, at the proper time and in the proper dosage sustains my mental and physical health. Since I have been taking psychiatric medications for many years, my concentration and short-term memory have been affected. Sometimes it’s hard to remember if I took my medicines or not. EMMA can help in this regard.

I have heard some of our peers object to the EMMA concept as a step closer to forced medication. I disagree. While the machine helps your doctor monitor your medication, whether you take the pills once they are dispensed is entirely up to you. You are in control – unlike the long lasting inter-muscular injection that is forced upon you.

And consider the benefit to consumers with OCD who may take extra doses because they are not sure whether or not they took their meds. EMMA dispenses medications in the proper dosages at the proper time to take them. No more accidental overdoses.

Consider also the consumer in recovery from substance abuse issues. It could allow the doctor to prescribe medications that might otherwise be abused, knowing that his client could not take more pills than prescribed.

So how does it work? EMMA emits a sound and its screen flashes. You then touch the machine, and out come your pills, expertly wrapped. Doctors and pharmacists have a record off all the pills you are taking. They can change dosages if necessary, and monitor your supply. Should there be a recall or warning about one of the pills you take, they will be instantly aware of it and able to take immediate action.

Emma is also capable of storing information regarding over-the-counter medications and supplements and can remind you to take these as well – however, EMMA does not dispense these pills.

Unfortunately, Emma is a rather costly option for most of us. Approval for availability under the Medicaid program has been applied for but is not currently available.

I strongly believe in the potential of EMMA to improve our quality of life, and reduce the anxiety of self-medication. I wholeheartedly endorse its use to my peers.
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