The what, why and how of health and development

Digital innovations in healthcare: Digital Medicine

Now here’s an idea that you should find easy to swallow. If we were lucky enough to still have ‘Tomorrow’s World’ on our TV screens, this invention from Proteus Digital Health would undoubtedly be featured. They’ve created technology that can be included in a regular pharmaceutical pill which, after swallowing, would send information from your body to a secure online platform. Through this ‘Digital Health Feedback System’, you could view information about your body’s physiological reaction to the medication, such as heart rate or blood pressure. The uses of this kind of product could stretch far. For health problems that require long term treatments, such as TB, being able to monitor remotely whether a patient is taking drugs could be a great way of monitoring drug use and effectiveness.

But as with any exciting innovation, it’s important to assess its limitations as much as its potential applications. These ‘Digital Medicines’, as Proteus calls them, could never replace face to face contact between a doctor and a patient. This physical connection is a fundamental part of healthcare, which I’m sure (hope) the company appreciates. This is evident more than ever in the NHS, where sometimes tragic problems have occurred because overworked staff didn’t have enough time to spend with individual patients. And if a doctor is able to measure a patient’s response to medication remotely, it could reduce the likelihood of the doctor meeting with the patient at all.

But it’s very early days. This product is yet to be FDA approved, although the company say they’re already working on projects within heart care, transplants and central nervous system healthcare. According to their website, Proteus also say they are soon launching a product, ‘Helius’, in Lloyds pharmacies in the UK that would include a ‘single sensor-enabled pill’ to be taken alongside medication along with a weekly patch worn on the torso. This one is designed around care giving and would allow patients to view and share information online with people involved in their care, such as family members who live far away. If you spot one, test it out – I’d love to hear about your experience or reactions!

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