Intelligent pharmaceuticals - Sensor smart pills innovate the interaction between technology and medicine

Sticks and probes and embeddables may well have seen their day in mainstream medical culture. They have had a good run, and masterful scientists and medical biological engineers have developed some groundbreaking technologies that have extended and saved the lives of millions of people. But these probing technologies have laid the path to a new evolution in technology – the Ingestible sensors and smart pills.

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By 2017, reports indicate that the smart pill industry will be worth just under a billion dollars. There has been a shifting trend towards non-invasive treatment methods across North America.  This has contributed to the large revenues and growing investment in the field, demonstrating that intelligent healthcare is an attractive emerging market.

According to a recent report, Around half of patients do not take their medication properly. The idea of using a smart pill to ensure correct dosage of medicine is relatively simple but outlines a fundamental shift in how individuals respond to and interact with medicine.

lots of pills in a human head

The smart pill features a sensor patch that is adhered to a capsule containing the individual’s medication.  Once the pill is consumed and the patch is dissolved, a message is sent to the receiving smartphone.  In the majority of cases, the message is sent if the individual does not take their medication indicating inactivity on behalf of the patient. These customizations are set up through Bluetooth, and are directed to a specific smartphone line.

Another way professionals are using the smart pill is in the field of endoscopy.  An ingestible microcapsule comprising of a battery, transmitter, color camera and light source, is swallowed by the patient and measures a variety of patient vital statistics as it travels through the body.  A key benefit of the SmartPill in internal evaluation is that it allows patients to resume most normal daily activities while data are being collected by the capsule.   These ingestible capsules or smart pills will help medical professionals and patients track the condition of their bodies in a high level of detail.

Smart Pills-2The technology is bracing patients and the culture as a whole for some intriguing and necessary digital and ethical questions, largely centered around side effects and privacy. Just some of the concerns governing this area include questions about the risks of implementing this technology inside a body as well as privacy concerns regarding the data that is revealed by the smart pill.  Despite concerns, Eric Topol, the director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in California, is keen for the technology to move forward, and argues  “The way a car works is that it has sensors and it tells you what’s wrong. Why not put the same type of technology in the body? It could warn you weeks or months or even years before something happens.”

The debate is ongoing but this revolution in wireless technology in the medical field has a myriad number of benefits, most importantly in the diagnosis, management and prevention of illness.