Ingestible Sensor Serves as Prescription Drug Monitor
Proteus Digital Health's digital medical system includes an ingestible sensor that works with fluid in the stomach to connect with a patch worn on the skin to record the time the patient takes medication. That information is sent to a mobile application that connects to an Internet database to save the information, so patients can interact with caregivers and keep track of medicines they must take regularly. (Source: Proteus Digital Health)
While this development seems somewhat surreal, I have no doubt that in a short amount of time, this will be the norm. The technology is so ready for this kind of application and the integration with smart phones and apps is a perfect complement. The only rub I see (beyond the one raised in the piece about whether ingesting a sensor is actually wise) is that most elderly or folks that might take advantage of this likely don't have smart phones. That said, their care givers most likely do and a few years out from now, the level of adoption will be extended further. Very cool innovation.
This is so much more important than all the debate about how to "fund" medicine. There are lots of issues in that arena. Progress will be made through technology.
Over the past couple of years I have seen Martin Cooper, one to the developers of the first hand held cell phones at Motorola. During his standard speech Marty talks about combining medical sensors with communication technology to improve care. This is the realization of that vision.
Design News has recently featured articles about robotic surgery as well. Most fields of human endeavor have been made more efficient through design and technology. Currently, medicine is like policing. It's main effectiveness is evident after one has become ill. We need to use what we know to forestall that event, if possible.
It is very nice to see innovation that falls in line with the larger trend of caring and nurturing that we see throughout the world right now. As the article mentioned, this is very helpful for patients who are busy or forgetful. It's good for caregivers.
One other thought I had was that this could help with prescription fraud. Recreational use of prescription drugs is at an all-time high. Inconsistencies or someone refusing to use this could send a warning signal.
Pharmacology is the applied science of chemistry, taking known chemical compounds and subjecting them into environments where they will chemically react in an expected and repeatable manner. All medications work this way. The essential point of this innovative technology is the same, as the article points out: "...the size of a grain of sand, it includes two elements found in food: magnesium and copper. The two metals act as electrodes to form an electrochemical reaction when they contact stomach fluid." This is an epiphany; taking common electronic elements and placing them into a biological environment, yielding repeatable expected results. Absolutely phenomenal discovery. Kudos to the researchers and to the FDA for approving this.
Regarding the statement made about privacy concerns, ("There have been some red flags raised over the potentially invasive nature of integrating a digital tracking device into a medication.") Have you ever noticed that most people who object to privacy issues are usually doing something illegal-? Like illegal drug trafficking, for example. Legitimate users of this technology should have no objections; and if they do there are several links in the communication chain they can easily unplug, such as the WiFi link outbound from the mobile phone app. Sheesh. Some folks would complain over a winning Lotto ticket...
Good points, Beth. Yet even without smartphones could probably access the signal through a laptop. The message from the patch on the skin could be sent to any number of devices with little adjustment from the manufacturer.
Good point, Rob. The smart phone and apps make the package all the more compelling, but there can be modifications to the design to support more traditional and accessible (to the elderly, that is) devices. I'm thinking a link to those devices eldery can wear that they can use to contact someone in the event that they fall and can't get up (Come on, we've all seen those commercials).
If the scanners for these medications become widely available to the underground, people could be targeted for their medications. Criminal walks into a shopping mall, detects that someone is ingesting some type of "desirable" painkiller and follows them to a non-public area or their home?
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From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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