A New Frontier In Medical Body Area Networks: Digital Pills

This item is a bit to the left of what we usually cover here, but I thought you might be as intrigued as I am, so here goes.  Techie site Mashable has just reported that the FDA has — for the first time ever — approved a digestible microchip that can be embedded in drugs.

The sensor is a tiny silicon chip laced with magnesium and copper; it generates a slight voltage which responds to digestive enzymes. The voltage signals a patch worn by the patient. Then, the patch transmits info wirelessly to a provider’s mobile device.

Right now, the sand-particle-sized chip is only approved for use in placebos, but maker Proteus Digital Health hopes to see approval for other drugs in the near future.

So, why bring this up on a site dedicated to hospital EMR discussion?

  • This is great news for hospitals, as it will eventually offer a far-less-invasive and labor-intensive method for tracking how patients are responding to drugs.
  • This  offers one more way of tracking patients wirelessly and sending data straight to an EMR.
  • The chip in question is the first step toward products like a sensor that would deliver an ECG to a smartphone (and by extension into an EMR)

My guess is that it will be years before this kind of solution is mature, but it’s neat to hear that it’s progressing. I believe it has a real future.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.