The Internet of Things is rapidly becoming embedded into every aspect of our lives, including healthcare, and non-invasive health monitoring products are taking the lead.
“The big obstacle in the healthcare market is the regulatory environment, which understandably requires an extensive approval process for medical devices that have the potential to have a positive or negative impact on the user’s health,” says Ben Parr, co-founder and managing partner at DominateFund.
Going through the regulatory process takes years and costs millions, Parr says, but less-invasive medical products are attractive because they require less regulatory review.
One such example is the smart pill bottle manufactured by AdhereTech. The pill bottles track whether or not patients take their medications, as well as quantity of medication and the time at which it is taken.
Current levels of medication adherence are only about 50 percent and non-adherence causes an estimated 125,000 deaths per year and results in healthcare costs between $100 million and $289 million per year.
AdhereTech’s smart pill bottles use sensors to determine the quantity of medication in the bottle. The sensors transmit information to the company, which compares the data to the previous contents of the bottle and the patient’s prescription to determine whether or not the patient is adhering to the prescription.
AdhereTech is partnering with pharmaceutical companies who will initially use the smart bottles in clinical trials—where medication adherence is critical to obtaining accurate results—and with expensive drugs.
Eventually the company hopes that its technology could become widely used across many different types of medications. “AdhereTech provides a great example of how the IoT can have a major impact on healthcare with a relatively light regulatory compliance burden,” Parr says.
Continuous glucose monitoring is another area where Parr says the IoT is already having an impact. The CGM was actually introduced in 2006, predating the IoT by a number of years.
While historically diabetic patients could only know their blood sugar level by pricking their finger and testing their blood. Today’s CGM records and reports blood sugar almost continuously with the use of a sensor under the patient’s skin. The sensor transmits information on glucose levels to a pager-like wireless monitor.
Newer versions of the CGM system can also transmit data via Bluetooth to a mobile device, and a parent, for instance, can monitor a child’s glucose levels while the child is at a sleepover at a friend’s house.
Down the road, we can expect to see widespread use of sensors on the body that provide diagnostic information far beyond what can be obtained with current technology, including the ability to monitor the patient’s condition in real-time and transmit that information over the Internet, Parr says.
“We are just in the early stages of witnessing the enormous positive impact the IoT will eventually have on helping to monitor our health and treat and manage diseases,” Parr says. “There is a tremendous opportunity for companies that are willing to make the long-term investment required to harness the IoT to take healthcare to the next level.”
Photo courtesy of AdhereTech.