Monday, 21 July 2014

Edible Tech

We’ve heard about the innovative ways that healthcare is infiltrating the digital world. Technologies such as mobile aps and techy wristbands have been part of the mainstream healthcare conversation for a while now. However Proteus Digital Health have gone one step further and have developed a new type of ‘edible’ tech.
This miniscule wireless device is actually ingested by the user and feedbacks their bodily vitals to an external computing device. The contraption, which resembles a grain of rice and is made almost entirely of silicon, passes through the body over a space of about a week and feeds back information to the user including heart rate, body temperature, activity levels and rest patterns.

What may be the purpose of receiving such information?
For patient’s friends and families, it is a way to ensure that their loved ones are taking their medications, sleeping correctly and getting enough exercise. And through a clever linking system, the family can send reminders or gentle ‘nudges’ to encourage a healthy lifestyle or compliance to medications. Not only may the information be used to aid adherence to both drugs and lifestyle changes, but it also empowers the patient to be more in control of their illness and especially may help to ease the patient back into society after a stint in hospital, by providing a reassuring edge.
Perhaps more importantly though, the information can also be used by physicians to help monitor their patients. The data can be used to help identify ‘at-risk’ patients who may be more likely to require medical help and even recognise those who need to be admitted to hospital rather than waiting for an appointment and allowing their problem to escalate.

What may be the value of ‘edible tech’ for pharmaceutical companies?
Digital health is something pharmaceutical companies are increasingly engaging in. Both Otsuka and Novartis have announced partnerships with Proteus Digital Health. Novartis, in particular, are looking to use the ingestible device to help with adherence relating to organ transplantation; a therapy area where they have a substantial portfolio.

Yet could this captivating new device be used by ourselves within the realms of market research? Perhaps in patient research this could be a way to truly understand adherence to both medications and lifestyle changes, and match up what respondents believe and say they are doing with clinical data showing their real behaviours. A couple of ideas Branding Science have had include monitoring sleep cycles of patients with insomnia or the exercise patterns of type II diabetic patients. However with Proteus yet to announce a launch date, there is plenty of time to work out more ways to include edible tech in market research.

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