A revolutionary medication smart sensor has been created by Proteus Digital Health, aiming to help patients with tracking their health data and medication details. The health sensor works by linking a signal from an ingestible sensor with a patch that the user wears on their body. The combined system tracks the patient’s activity levels, temperature, and heartbeat.

One of the more unique features of the system is that the sensor is ingested inside one of the patient’s daily medications, and sends a record with a time-stamp showing what time the medication was taken. All of this information is then used by the patient’s doctor or caregiver, and could help to highlight any medication errors or problems that have occurred.

So How Does It Work?

The sensor functions by making use ofa thin metal coating, made out of magnesium, copper and gold. This metal creates a circuitthat then reacts with stomach acids: this causes an electrochemical reaction that is strong enough to power the sensor. The sensor’s power is used to transmit the health information to a smartphone app using Bluetooth.

The patch also has a sensor inside, and the data it collects is also sent to the smartphone app. The app then provides a clear, full picture of the patient’s health. The ingestible sensor can detect 97.3% of ingestions, and both parts of the system are cleared by the FDA.

What Situations Can the Health Sensor Help with?

One of the most important problems that the health smart sensor could help to alleviate is medication mistakes. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that adverse drug reactions contribute to or directly cause the deaths of upwards of 100,000 Americans every year.

These deaths in many cases could be preventable, especially in situations where the adverse drug reaction results from an incorrect drug or an incorrect dose being prescribed. Many medication mistakes are caused by pharmacists being asked to work extremely long hours under high pressure, with few breaks.

Phillip Grauss, a senior pharmacist in California, notes thatIn some retail locations, pharmacists are being asked to work 12-hour shifts, sometimes back to back”. In these conditions, it’s obvious how mistakes can happen. In fact, these types of mistakes are not unusual at all, and pharmacists in the UK self-report around 10,000 mistakes each year.

What Types of Mistakes Most Commonly Occur?

The most common types of pharmacy errors have been investigated by Patient Claim Line, a firm of medical law solicitors. They found that most errors were:

  • The wrong medication being given to the patient

  • Unclear or incorrect instructions

  • Medication improperly mixed

  • Expired or damaged medication being given out

Given the high detection levels of the smart sensor, it should be able to detect these types of mistakes very promptly. If the patient had an adverse reaction, the smart sensor would record anomalies in heart rate or temperature and transmit those to the smartphone app in real time.

Who Can the Sensor Help?

There are a number of different sensors currently on the market, and all of them are suited to different patient needs and situations. For example, the Proteus sensor could be very useful for patients with mental illness, since the sensor is embedded inside the pills themselves. This means that if a person was trying to avoid taking their medication, or was prone to forgetfulness, the Proteus sensor would be able to flag these kinds of problems quickly.

Another type of sensor, called uBox, is more focused on smart reminders for people to take their medication, as well as including friends and family that can help you stay on top of your care needs. This would potentially be more suitable for elderly patients who have trouble remembering to take their prescriptions on time, or at all.

One final example is the Propeller Health sensor. This sensor is used for patients who have asthma or COPD, and it is attached to the inhaler that the patient uses. It monitors the patient’s surroundings (such as their location) and can alert the patient about what kinds of environments may trigger their asthma.

In all of these cases, this type of technology is extremely useful for helping patients meet their care needs, as well as ensuring that doctors are made aware of any issues promptly. Particularly in situations of medication error or pharmacy mistake, care providers will quickly become aware of differences in pill composition or adverse reactions with the Proteus system: this is an excellent step forward for protecting vulnerable patients from these types of errors.