One of the most innovative medical technologies to emerge in the last few years is “smart pills.” Although approved by the FDA in 2017, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this new technology that needs to be cleared up.

What are “Smart Pills”

Smart pills refer to small ingestible capsules that look very similar to existing medication that your doctor might prescribe you. The main difference is that smart pills can be loaded with medication, sensors, and other diagnostic technology. The various sensors can accurately measure vitals such as body temperature and pressure.

The Benefits

The new technology may also eliminate uncomfortable or dangerous procedures by providing an easier and safer method of imaging. Irish-based and US-operated company Medtronic has created an FDA-approved smart pill called “Pillcam”. Pillcam can replace invasive procedures such as endoscopies which involve having a small camera on a long, flexible cord go down a person’s throat to image the digestive tract. Endoscopies are extremely uncomfortable and can have potentially dangerous life-threatening complications. The Pillcam is ingested like a normal pill and captures images as it travels through the body. After the Pillcam has enough time to capture the necessary images, the medical professional downloads the images for review and the pill passes normally.

Another important feature of smart pills is the capability to be a better drug delivery system. Sometimes, medications are less effective than they should be because it is released at the wrong time, in the wrong place of the body. Smart pills can be programmed to release medication at optimal locations and at optimal dosages.

How Smart Pills Can Make Life a Little Easier

The smart pill also addresses one of the biggest challenges to healthcare, patient adherence. It’s not enough just for a medical professional to diagnose a condition and formulate a treatment plan. The patient also needs to be committed to following the plan as well to see results. It is estimated that half of all failed treatment plans are a result of patients failing to adhere to the plans.

It is fairly common for patients not to finish their medication regimen or even pick up their prescription. This can be contributed to a multitude of reasons such as a busy lifestyle or medical conditions that make it difficult for a person to track or remember to take their medications. Some medications even require multiple doses in a single day but a smart pill can deliver multiple doses per pill making it a little easier for the patient to track.

The Downside

Of course like with any technological solution, there is a possibility that it could be hacked or malfunction. Nevertheless, just like many other medical innovations such as robot-assisted surgery or laser eye surgery, the tangible benefits far outweigh the potential negatives.

Medical knowledge and techniques are constantly evolving to become safer, more effective, and less invasive for the patient. It is safe to safe that smart pills present a simple, more effective future of patient care.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash