Digital Pills: The Next Big Thing in Home Care?

A new technology that is making waves in the UK could be the next think to revolutionize home care in the U.S.

Medication administration is positioned to be the next target for time saving efficiency through a new technology coming to market: digital pills.

The creation was launched by Poteus Digital Health and received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in July 2012. The technology is now being marketed for at-home use in England and will be landing in U.S. hospitals later this year, which could have vast implications on senior care, including home care settings.

“Our digital health feedback system is designed to help people better manage their care each and every day,” says David O’Reilly, chief product officer. “Whether it’s nudges to help people stay on track with their routine or better informed caregivers and clinicians, the system will provide significant benefit to those who are experiencing lifestyle changes as a result of aging.”

The digital pill works as part of a platform to track and monitor a user’s intake of medicines. Say a person has a regimen of three pills to take each day. The digital pill has the capability of being incorporated into pharmaceuticals themselves, or being taken as a placebo pill along with medicines.

Once digestion begins, the pill—which contains a digital sensor about the size of a grain of sand—goes to work. It transmits data through a wearable patch, via bluetooth directly to a family member’s or caregiver’s cell phone or computer, letting that person know the medicine has been administered.

The whole transmission can be complete within 10 minutes of the pill being taken.

Particularly in cases where the person receiving the medicines is homebound, or is receiving care in a community setting, this may be useful as a way to keep track of many different people all at the same time and without having to perform physical checks as to whether a person has swallowed his or her pills.

It’s currently being packaged and sold through some drug stores in England, at a monthly subscription rate of 60 pounds ($90US).

While it has many caregiving applications, Proteus says, it’s particularly geared toward older people who may suffer from memory impairment or other causes which lead them to forget to take their medicines.

“We’ve observed that as people age, families often devolve into constant worry. Phone calls focus only on whether medications have been taken or if mom is up and about,” O’Reilly says. “With our technology, loved ones will already be reassured about the routine and those conversations will shift back to topics that really matter. Those aging will maintain their independence, families will be reassured, and most importantly relationships will be strengthened.”

In addition to monitoring medications, the ingestible sensor also is capable of tracking heart rate, body position and activity.

It will begin testing in hospitals and other institutional care settings in the coming months within the United States, with a particular eye toward hospital readmissions, an important goal for many senior care providers in line with regulatory changes around hospital care versus other forms of care.

Proteus sees the potential for a paradigm shift as the technology is adopted.

“Our digital health feedback system provides caregivers with a view into their loved ones’ activity and rest patterns as well as their medication taking,” O’Reilly says. “Having this information at your fingertips will change the paradigm for caregiving.”

Elizabeth Ecker on EmailElizabeth Ecker on Linkedin
Elizabeth Ecker
Director of Content at Home Health Care News
Curious about all things, when not writing about senior housing topics, Liz is an avid explorer of food. She loves trying new recipes, new restaurants and new ice cream flavors. (Current favorite: Goat cheese with red cherries.)

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