This author has been writing about digital health technologies for a while. Regular readers know that it is rare for individual companies or products to be highlighted or even mentioned in my posts. However, the Proteus Digital Health (formerly Proteus Biomedical) ingestible biosensor has ramifications that transcend earnings for the company or a few patents. It was recently approved by the FDA after having been approved a while ago by the CE of the EU. In summary, this technology is a physiologic sensor incorporated into a medication pill. Stomach juices activate an energy source which is similar to a potato starch battery. The sensor then sends signals to a skin patch electrode which then wirelessly transmits information such as vital signs, body position, and verification of medication ingestion. The information is obtainable to designated persons (caregiver, clinician) via an app. It is, essentially, the quintessential digital technology.
1. This technology is the ultimate medication adherence tool. Medication adherence has been a target of digital health technology development for many years, as it is estimated that up to $750 is spent on care and other expenses on non-adherent patients. From text messaging to digital pill bottle caps, technologies have been trying to come as close to an eyewitness of a person ingesting a medication as possible. This technology leaves no doubt about adherence.
2. This technology represents the crossroads of sensors, wireless, remote monitoring, and mobile. Physiologic sensors, wireless technologies, and mobile apps are the focus of dramatic developments recently. The Proteus ingestible sensor combines all of these features, demonstrating unique elegance and ingenuity.
3. This technology is clinical enough to put it on the radar for physicians. Most medical apps and digital technologies have not been taken seriously by clinicians because they are too simplistic and unproven. The ingestible sensor appeals to the scientific mind as well as addressing real clinical problems. If it is shown to decrease hospital readmissions, perhaps improve workflow, improve outcomes, and have no long-term adverse effects, it will no doubt be welcomed by healthcare providers worldwide.
4. This technology provides a firm foundation for development of offshoot technologies. Like the development of NASA technologies and the ‘Star Wars’ initiative in the 80’s, this is a technology which will spawn ideas and developments in a few diverse directions resulting in the development of perhaps unrelated products and services. Examining all the ‘moving parts’ of this technology offers to me that kind of exciting promise.
5. It is a technology with market appeal to clinicians first, consumers second. Most mobile apps to date have been targeted at consumers for various reasons. They do not require regulatory approval, they can be mass marketed, and they are not currently beholden to any standards. This technology has gone through vigorous approval processes by multiple agencies, addresses real clinical concerns, and may have a major impact on patient outcomes. So far only a few technologies have gone through this process. These are the technologies which will, by virtue of their potential impact on patients, be the ones to break barriers of adoption of digital health technologies.
One might see why a champion of digital health technologies like me is excited about this product. I look forward to many other digital health developments (Tricorder X Prize contestants, personalized genomic medicine, and others) having the same impact on the healthcare system. It should be noted that I have no financial interest or relationship with Proteus Digital Health.