It’s one thing to get hounded by your doctor (for good reasons though) about how important it is to take your drugs when you show up at the clinic with a new complain- thanks to your non-drug compliance but to now have the tablets directly monitoring you for compliance and reporting to your doctor!… Now that what I call “Technohealth”
A tech savoir-faire pharmaceutical company, Proteus Biomedical Inc. pioneered this breakthrough with their production of digestible sensors which they call Ingestible Event Markers (IEM). Here is a simple description from the company’s website: “… they are sensors made of food ingredients that when swallowed are activated by the stomach fluids and work in tandem with small, bandage-like skin patches or tiny devices implanted under the skin to track both drug levels and a person’s vital signs such as the heart rate.”
How does it work exactly? This is the explanation: Once activated in the stomach, the IEM creates an ultra-low power digital (private) signal detected by the external microelectronic recorder- that is, either the small bandage-like skin patch or the tiny skin implant which actually does the decoding function of recording the details like the drug type, dose, place of manufacture alongside with the body’s vital signs like the heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, all inclusive of its very precise date and time stamp! These data in combo with advanced mHealth applications in the server base transmits all the data to the patient’s phone as well as sends a text message to the doctor and may be shared with whosoever the patient pleases like family members/care-givers.
Now don’t be so quick to turn up your nose and dismiss this as just some technological plaything because according to the WHO report, more than 50% of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately, and half of all patients fail to take medicines correctly.
More specifically, some developed countries had taken it a step further to run an analysis on the exact cost implication of untaken medication and the wasteful figures are €300 million (50% avoidable) in the UK and €50 million in Wales respectively. Now considering that the IEMs are produced at “wafer scale” on silicon thus making it extremely economical with mass production costs of just a few cents.
While the financial implication is a biggie, on the other spectrum, the pharmaceutical company is already applying this technology as a bedrock for developing highly customized individualized patient care and management by means of its revolutionary health information sharing with both the doctor and care-givers as epitomized in their rolled out partnership early this year with UK pharmacy chain store, LloydPharmacy, to launch and sell the digital health product, helius. This is a really important development because for some patients living with chronic diseases or even as people advance in age, it can actually become cumbersome to keep track of all the medications and it also eases the quality of responsive feedbacks from care-givers who may not reside with the patient.