Baffled by Numbers

Navigating information towards better health decisions.

Like Eye Drops to Elephants – a Gadget to the Rescue

What would my mom really like for Mother's Day?

At an increasingly digital age, some things, like eye drops, remain painfully hands-on and mistake-prone. Adherence is a challenge, and efficacy sub-optimal, due to spillage.

At an incresingly DIY age, patients all too often get blamed for their health problems. But trying harder does not necessarily guarantee perfect administration.

Sometimes the right thing to do is to acknowledge human imperfection and turn to gadgets.

The seemingly mundane topic of eye drops is very personal to me. My mother developed glaucoma at an unusually early age. So, growing up, seeing her apply eye drops to her eyes was part of my daily scenery. Before retiring she was a nurse, and therefore, she was and still is, the world's most adherent patient in spite of an almost impossible regimen. Indeed, about ten years ago, when she took me to Barcelona for a week, I realized she diligently administered drops nine times a day. Every single day. Over three thousand times a year.

Yet, when mom's inter-ocular pressure skyrocketed, her doctor suggested she may not be administering the drops well. Indeed, that most of the active material was going to her cheeks. Good thing my mother is a lady, or she would have hit him. She, Esther Miron, RN, doing a poor job with eye drops?! Sadly, this is exactly what happened. Sadder still, she is not alone.

Eye-drop application is tricky. Try it, closing one eye and sticking a plastic apparatus pretty close to it, then making it squirt. The vicious circle that often ensues is that difficulty leads to reduced adherence, which leads to reduced efficacy, and inevitably, to "why bother?" Another undesirable outcome is when the excessive active ingredients are absorbed in the bloodstream, because drops often contain too much of it.

Technical problems often require technical solutions, such as AdMister, a medical device developed by AoPharma. Eliminating the need for the guessing game ("is it in? did all the drop get in or just part of it?"), as well as reducing the need for preservatives in the medication, such devices take the human factor out of the picture. This mistifier sends just the right amount into the exact location inside the eye, and it is fool-proof, in that all the patient has to do is place a goggle-like apparatus above your eye. Not only are spillage and application a thing of the past, this is done so that rather than asking humans to overcome their shortcomings (which, frankly, just isn't going to happen), the AdMister takes these shortcomings into account. No one is insulted in the process; no one's faculties are put into question. Frustration averted; eficiency and adherence accomplished.

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Perhaps this is what I should get her for Mother's Day.


Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., is a researcher at Princeton University. She specializes in medical decision making of patients and health professionals.


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