The future of medicine is one step closer: US Food and Drug Administration has just approved a tiny digital sensor that can track health information from the inside. This sensor, which is the size of grain of sand, is swallowed as part of a pill, and it keeps sending data to a mobile device until it gets expelled just like dietary fiber.
What does it do?
The goal of this particular digital sensor is to track if a patient is following the instructions on the proper use of prescribed medicine and whether the dosage is accurate or should be changed. The device can be used by patients themselves, but the data can be sent to caregivers and doctors with patient’s permission.
The ingestible sensor is already in wide use in Europe, but is the first “digital pill” approved by the FDA. It is designed and produced by Proteus Digital Health from California.
How does it work?
After being swallowed, the ingestible sensor goes into the stomach, where it gets in touch with stomach juices, which power its battery. The “battery” is made of two conductive materials, which get activated when wet. Once powered, the device starts collecting data and sends it to a patch on the patient’s skin. From there it is sent to a mobile device or computer, where it is recorded and can be analyzed.
The device can also collect other type of data, such as heart rate, position and activity of the body.
While collecting information on the medications time and rate does not seem like much, it can make a great difference in effectively treating any disease. Doctors can monitor if the patient is actually using the pills as prescribed, and if the pills are as effective as expected. The data from the device can allow doctors to adjust the dose or even change the medicine, greatly improving the efficiency of the overall treatment.
Of course, it is pretty obvious that this first step is just the beginning of the new era. With similar digital devices, much information on how our bodies work, whether healthy or ill, will be accessible without any invasive procedure or excessive costs.