A new ingestible medication sensor has been brought to market by Proteus Digital Health, with the aim of helping the wearer monitor their medication intake and health information. By combining a wearable patch with an ingestible sensor, the system can monitor the patient’s heart rate, activity, and temperature throughout the day. The ingestible sensor is swallowed at the same time that the patient takes their daily medication, creating a time-stamped record of the medication’s consumption. A caregiver or doctor can then monitor the information received, to see how the patient responds to the medication in real time.
Why Is This Health Sensor Important?
The health sensor is important for ensuring that patients adhere to medication regimens, as well as preventing medical mistakes.
According to an extensive study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, every year over 100,000 Americans are killed as a result of adverse drug reactions. This makes these types of incidents one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.
A number of these deaths may have been prevented, if they were due to errors made in dispensing medication or incorrect prescriptions. Pharmacy mistakes are extremely common, with pharmacists reporting around 10,000 medication errors per year in the UK.
How Pharmacies Make Mistakes
These mistakes can be made for a number of reasons, with a firm of medical law solicitors noting that most claims against pharmacies are for:
- Providing the wrong prescription/wrong medication
- Errors in information about how to take the medication
- Prescription ingredients damaged or expired
- Medication being improperly or incorrectly mixed
- Incorrect instructions about the frequency or use of the medication
Using a smart medication sensor would flag these mistakes quickly, particularly if the patient experienced an adverse drug reaction to an incorrect dose or incorrect medication.
How Does the Smart Sensor Work?
The smart sensor has been approved by the FDA, and works by way of using thin layers of metals on the outside of the sensors. A layer of magnesium, copper and gold inside the circuit react with acids in the stomach, which causes an electrochemical reaction. This reaction creates enough power for the sensor to work, and the sensor then transmits information to the patch that the patient is wearing.
The patch senses data such as the heart rate, breathing, and sleep activity, and that information is then combined with the records from the stomach sensor to be sent as a blister packaging via Bluetooth to a smartphone app.
Which Patients Will the Sensor Be Best for?
The smart sensor will not necessarily be suitable for all patients, however, and may be more useful for individuals with particular illnesses. Other medical adherence and monitoring devices are also already on the market, such as uBox, and each different sensor device may be appropriate for different people.
For example, uBox reminds patients to take their medication, and also allows you to add family and friends to help monitor your medication intake. In contrast, Proteus may be of more assistance to those with mental health needs, as the sensor is embedded within the medication. Medical adherence is a particular problem among those with serious mental illnesses, with one study showing up to 74 percent of schizophrenia patients stopping their medication within 18 months. With these adherence issues and mental health, it is important that doctors are alerted if the patient doesn’t take their medication. With a reminder program or smart pillbox, there’s nothing stopping the patient from taking their medication out of the box, or popping it out of the blister packaging, and then throwing it away. With Proteus, the sensor is activated when the patient swallows the medication, so pills being thrown away will still trigger an alert being sent to the patient’s doctors.
Another example is that of the Propeller Health sensor, which is tailored specifically for patients suffering from asthma and COPD. The sensor attaches directly to the asthma inhaler, and collects information about particular triggers, reminds patients to take medication doses on schedule, and allows them to make decisions that alleviate their symptoms more regularly (such as avoiding particular places).
These types of revolutionary new technology can help both patients and doctors to aim for better health, and can even potentially stop fatal medication mistakes from being made.