Digital Medicine is the ability to check a person’s health and medicine intake by using some sensor that sits within the body or a wearable. Yes, it is the future of the health sector or at least people think it is, so let us dig deeper.

In simple terms the use of high end technology for both hardware and software to enhance human health in some way or the other is what it is. It includes treatment, recovery, disease prevention, awareness and various other aspects of medicine. There by creating an intelligent system that collects, notifies, analyses data and inputs expert decisions to tackle with immediate health situations and produces trends and patterns for others to use as signs to take early action in the future.

Digital medicine examples

It could be as simple as a survey form filled by the patient or an implantable like an insulin pump that delivers the dosage at the right time or it could be a combination of many. Like CGM or Continuous glucose monitor to send signals to the pump.

Similarly a bandaid like disposable patch attached to the patients skin records the data from the sensor along with heart rate activity and other body metrices. Again this can be used in combination with other sensors to provide a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment.

There are also techs where surgeons can look at holographic images produced from MRIs of say a cancer tumor right before the operating table and attack with a higher degree of confidence.

What are digital pills ?

Digital pills are tine devices that you swallow and it performs some data collection function from within the body. It will follow the digestion route of vegetable like a broccoli and exit in a couple of days. It can relay vital information regarding the conditions of the digestive tract or fluids and also send info to you smartphones when it is time to take a medicine or do a certain activity.

Proteus sensor is one such pill that has been used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. Another such product is PillCam originally designed by an Israeli startup that can be used in place of invasive colon exams. Now, that is going to be useful.

Medications with ingestible sensors are being prescribed in the treatment areas of hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, heart failure, Hepatitis C, mental health, HIV, TB, organ transplantation and also for pediatric patients.

Advantages and disadvantages of Digital Medicine

There are difficulties one has to live with for a tech to work but so far digital medicine has proven very useful so let us look at what the pros and cons are:

Advantages / Benefits of Digital medicine

  1. The power of engineering, IT, data analysis, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented reality Internet of Things (IoT) and technology overall can be used to better human health.
  2. It brings accuracy and precision to the medicine world in both diagnosis, treatment or surgical operations.
  3. The huge amount of data generated can help identify illness before it even shows.
  4. Real time monitors and drug administration is a major advantage.
  5. It will be cost saving in the long run.

Disadvantages of Digital Medicine

  1. It is still a new thing so we don’t know yet if it is going to be more efficient or not.
  2. There is always chance of the patient using the technology wrongly by not following the experts advice knowingly or not.
  3. Since data are important there can be problem of theft, altering or even espionage of people using digital medicine. Also there is the question of privacy.
  4. Medical professionals may resist to adopt the new technology for fear of reputation and to protect their professionalism.

Conclusion

The thing is already here and not by chance but by research and the improvements in technology. It might take a while to fine tune but it is sure to change our lives for the better. So don’t hesitate to swallow that tech pill if you doctor says so.

Sources:

https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/500413#ref9

https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2018fall/digital-medicine-improve-patient-care.html

Image by: Owen Beard

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