Can smart medicines crush U.S. healthcare costs?

Taking medicine as prescribed is exceedingly difficult for many people. Our busy lives, long work hours, physical obstacles such as limited mobility, and mental ones like dementia and Alzheimer’s can disrupt our ability to stick to our prescribed medical regime.

This lack of consistency results in many patients making otherwise avoidable trips to the hospital and/or suffering prolonged illness. A patient prescribed antibiotics to fight an infection, for example, is at risk of rebounding symptoms if they fail to take the prescribed dosages to completion.

Clinical trials, which are essential components of our healthcare system for discovering and testing new treatments. Currently, clinical trials are conducted with as many as three times the number of participants that are actually required in order to make up for non-compliance among participants. If a participant fails to comply to the specific regime, the trial’s results can be skewed. Bringing on additional participants is one way to minimize the impact of one or more non-compliant participants.

A new report from Lux Research sheds light on how emerging technologies can help save the US as much as $290 billion in yearly healthcare costs. These new methods include smart packaging, apps, telemedicine and new drug-delivery technologies.

Does healthcare need smarter delivery systems?

The report lists smart-delivery systems as a particularly effective emerging technology for its usability and seamless integration into patient’s lives. Leading the pack among four major drug adherence stakeholders – patience, physicians, pharma, and payers – drug-delivery systems received a 4.3 rating out of five in usability and 3.3 in impact.

“User-friendly interfaces combined with effective technical capabilities are both required for addressing this market which will continue to grow due to population aging and epidemiology trends” said Milos Todorovic, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, “From Aging in Place to Clinical Trials:  Lowering Health Care Costs with Medication Adherence.”

Smart delivery systems include smart pills, which combine technology with medicine in a variety of ways. One method involves swallowing a pill that stays in the stomach for extended periods, sensing levels of particular enzymes and/or changes in the body and sending an alert to the patient letting them know when they need to take their medication.

Similar technologies can be applied to which are capable of monitoring specific information and transmitting that data to the patient’s smartphone where it is then logged and/or sent to their healthcare provider. If the patch detects that action is required, such as taking medication, it could then alert the patient and/or possibly even administer the dosage directly.

As these technologies continue to be developed and approved, they could end up saving the world a lot more than money.

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