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Apple’s Medications app is a game-changer for the chronically ill

I belong to the chronically ill community. We are people whose illnesses last for an extended period of time and typically aren’t curable. We rely on several medicines to get through each day. And the most crucial task of the day for us is to take our medication on time – something I struggle with. That’s why I was excited when Apple announced the introduction of the Medications feature with iOS 16 and WatchOS 9 at its Worldwide Developers Conference this year.

What Apple Medications is and how it works

Medications is a new feature in the Health app that allows you to keep track of your medicines, vitamins, and supplements. You can create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view all the medicine-related information in the Medications section of the Health app.

Apple Medications feature shown on an iPhone 12.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

It’s easy to set up, and you have ample control over how you add your medicines. Apple lets you select the shape, color, dosage, and time for specific tablets. You can also use the iPhone camera to scan the medication label and add custom visuals.

For instance, if I create a list to take Tablet A and Tablet B at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., the Apple Watch will notify me when it’s time to take my medicine. I can then log the medicine as either “skipped” or “taken.” If you have to take three pills at a particular time, you get the option for “log all as taken” right on your wrist.

Why Medications is a huge deal

I’ve been on medication for six years for a rare condition called trigeminal neuralgia (TN), which is basically intense facial pain. I take two pills in the morning and four at night to keep the pain attacks under control. But I have always struggled to take my medicines on time. As a result, I had to create multiple reminders for each medicine separately. It’s cumbersome. And I can’t afford to miss the dosage, because if I do, I’m hit by bad pain attacks.

I’m not alone in this. “[Not taking the medicines on time] means I risk messing up my whole schedule of the day. It means my body will feel the consequences of a missed dose of medication. It means I risk a flare. And that could mean weeks and months of horrendous pain,” says Laura, a fellow TN warrior (we use the term “warrior’” instead of “patient” in the community because of what it’s like to struggle with one of the “most painful conditions known to mankind”). I can relate to that feeling. That’s exactly what will happen if any of us from the community miss taking our medicines when we’re supposed to.

Apple Medications feature on iPhone 12.
Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

And this isn’t something limited to TN warriors. “My mom takes a cancer hormone medicine, so that’s critical, and she has to take it for five years without fail. Otherwise, she could have a relapse,” says Sahil, whose mother is a cancer patient. Another person I reached out to is Nia, who struggles with multiple chronic illnesses. “For IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], even one day dose missed means the next day my stomach symptoms are worse,” she said. On top of that, “if I’m having a migraine attack and don’t take the meds on time, the attack lasts much longer and is more intense,” she added.

It’s all about peace of mind

It’s a constant anxiety for us to take our medicines on time, or else the consequences are severe. That’s why Apple’s Medications feature is a welcome addition to the lives of chronically ill people. Personally, I’ve been using it since the iOS 16 and WatchOS 9 Developer Betas came out. And you know what? I haven’t missed a single dose since.

When telling people about Medications, I was met with positive responses and a variation of “Yes! That, would be amazing” from each person. For instance, Laura said, “I not only think that would be helpful to have that option, but I think it would also bring a bit more peace of mind.”

If you are someone who has to take medicines regularly, you're gonna be extremely delighted with the new Medications feature on #watchOS9 and #iOS16.
It's a simple feature but very effective

— Prakhar Khanna (@Parkyprakhar) June 7, 2022

As of now, the best way to keep track of your medications is by creating reminders, and the most intuitive way to do this is with the help of Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa.

But with Apple Medications, you can assign color, shape, dosage milligrams, and more to each medicine you take. It’s a faster and more intuitive way to recognize which tablet you need to take at that particular time when the watch buzzes. It’s a set-and-forget process.

In a world with constant anxiety about “when will the next pain attack hit,” not worrying about medicines isn’t something I ever thought would happen. “[Not remembering which medicine to take at which time is] something that I often worry about and try to be mindful [about]. But I’m human, and it sometimes happens,” said Laura. Apple’s Medications app won’t only help people like me keep track of our medicines, but it’s also giving us more peace of mind. And that, folks, is life-changing.

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