November 19, 2012

Your Doctor Will Be Checking On You

Big brother has now entered the medical world and your doctor will now be able to determine if you are compliant or not. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first digestible microchips to be placed in your pills. “The Proteus digital health feedback system combines an ingestible sensor placed on a pill, with a wearable sensor on an adhesive patch, and a mobile application that displays data on a mobile device, such as a smartphone.” Then the data can be transmitted directly to the doctor.

I can see some important advantages for this use, and even a few disadvantages. First question is the life of the wearable sensor as 7 days does not seem like it is long enough. If acceptance is good, then I can see technology raising the life to possibly a few weeks. How well it will hold up under showers, baths, and exercise perspiration is another point of consideration.

The Ingestion Event Marker (IEM) represents a new category of medical device. It is made entirely ingredients found in food and is activated on ingestion. The sensor put in the pill is approximately the size of a grain of sand. The system is integrated between the ingestible pill, a disposable patch worn on the body, and a mobile device carried in the pocket or purse. The sensor is capable of detecting the exact time the medication is taken and will identify the unique signature of the medication. The disposable patch will capture and relay the body's physiological response and behaviors. In addition to recording information from the sensor, the patch will record heart rate, temperature, activity and rest patterns. The mobile device will be able to display data in context and support care.

The IEM (sensor) does not contain a battery, but is instead activated by the fluids in the stomach. The body transmits the digital signal generated by the sensor. The IEM is the only ingestible sensor that is powered by the body. The sensor passes through the body similar to fiber. “The chips are aimed more toward people taking medications for chronic conditions than those on a short round of antibiotics. They don't provide any information, though, on how well pills are absorbed or whether they help. Continuous monitoring holds promise to alert physicians immediately if there is a problem, though plenty of people, no doubt, will find it just too Big Brother.”

You can use your imagination, but I can see patients using this to prove to their doctor that they are compliant. By the same token, I can also see many patients saying this is none of the doctor's business and refuse to take these pills, or at least not wearing the disposable patch. As pointed out in the article, this could be a great advantage for patients with chronic conditions.

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