Here’s an idea that might not be too hard to swallow. Proteus Biomedical, a Silicon Valley start-up has developed a tiny microchip that can be attached to pills and signal caregivers when patients have swallowed them.
At the same time, sensing devices on the skin can relay information regarding the patients vital signs using wireless technology.
The combo technology could help physicians monitor compliance with prescribed dosing, assure the patient takes the proper dose, and provide early warning about untoward physiologic effects.
The chips have been shown to be safely digestible. In commercial production, they would cost less than a penny per pill.
Proteus is one of many companies using micro chips and wireless technology to create new medical tools. Triage Wireless, for example is testing a wearable device that can transmit continuous blood pressure readings in hospitalized patients, while Corventis has a sensor that measures respiration, fluid status and movement.
The potentially huge health care market for wireless devices has prompted larger companies to enter the fray as well. Qualcomm for example, is developing chips that can be used in various wearable medical applications.
Similarly, Intel is developing “magic carpet” devices to be deployed in the homes of senior citizens to track movement and prevent falls, a major cause of morbidity in the elderly.
Wireless networks, of course, are already in widespread use to support the 4 billion cell phones sold to date. The same networks can be used to transmit medical data.
According to Eric Topol, a Scripps Institute cardiologist, remote monitoring devices could save $10.1 billion in the care of patients congestive heart failure alone.