Professional Advice / Opinions:

A New Frontier in Health Care: Digital Medicine

By: Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi

We live in amazing times. Technology does not progress by steps anymore, it grows by leaps. Health-care has reaped the benefits of these advances just like any other industry. It was not a very long time ago that pharmacists would look up patient records in a book full of names and drugs and medical journals only came in paper form. To paint a picture: nobody could use the Ctrl+F function of a browser and scrolling to the relevant section involved the literal turning of a page (or several pages).

And the progress continues. Proteus Digital Health™ recently released a new product which takes medication to the digital age. It is called the Digital Health™ Feedback System. They have created an ingestible sensor that may be implanted in the medication that the patient has to take. The sensor is 1 mm2, made of silicon and does not alter the medication. It is powered by the fluids in the stomach.  Once the medication is ingested and the sensor is activated, a signal is sent to a receiver which comes in the form of a patch on the arm. The patch records the time and identity of the medication that was ingested by the patient. It also records heart rate, body temperature, activity, and rest.  This receiver then sends the information that it has compiled to a connected mobile device, which has the designated application downloaded on it.  According to the manufacturer, the patient has full discretion over who has access to the information obtained by the device. This means that with the patient’s consent, clinicians may also keep track of their patient’s compliance.

This technology has been on the market in Europe for the past two years. And on July 30, 2012, the FDA approved the use of the Digital Health™ Feedback System as a medical device. The company touts the product as the next step in trying to reduce non-compliance with medications. It is estimated that about fifty percent of patients do not take their medications properly. This not only includes patients who simply do not take their medications, but also patients who take their medications but do so inappropriately.

Everybody either has or will most likely see the clip of Dr. Gregory House on the popular TV drama “House” asking a patient to demonstrate how she uses her inhaler. (If you have not seen it, I suggest looking it up immediately). We have all heard stories of suppositories being swallowed or antibiotic suspensions being poured in the ear instead of taken orally for an ear infection. Even the more subtle forms of non-compliance, such as taking a medication that should be taken with food on an empty stomach or taking the medication at the wrong time of day could impact the patient. Non-compliance in all of its forms has the potential to worsen clinical outcomes.

Healthcare has long benefited from advances in technology and digital medication seems to be the next step. While this product does not completely eliminate non-compliance, it is hoped that it would be another tool in a clinician’s arsenal to improve patient outcomes.

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Published by Rho Chi Post
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