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Combatting Chronic Disease with Digital Medicines

Dr. Scooter Plowman, medical director at Proteus Digital Health, discusses developments in digitial medicine as an industry leader.

Dr. Scooter Plowman

Medical Director, Proteus Digital Health

One in 3 people in the US have hypertension, and more than 9 percent of Americans have diabetes. With all the medications people take for these chronic diseases, why aren’t they getting better?

People with hypertension and diabetes are prescribed medications by their doctors to help them get their conditions under control. The World Health Organization published statistics showing that more than 50 percent of people do not take their medications as prescribed. When people don’t take their medications, their health doesn’t improve. If doctors don’t know if their patients are taking their medications, they can only guess if their patients need a different dose or a different medication.

What can people do if they really want to get their chronic diseases under control?

In almost all cases, lifestyle changes are needed. Changing behaviors is one of the most difficult things to do. To start, people need to make sure they are regularly taking the medications their doctors prescribe. It’s a habit that needs to be developed. Something new being used in the United States today to help people develop these habits is digital medicine, which enables patients to know for sure that they took their medication and get a better picture of their health. Digital medicines have been shown to improve patients’ clinical outcomes significantly.

What are digital medicines?

Digital medicines are a new category of pharmaceuticals that include: (1) widely used drugs, formulated so they communicate when they have been ingested; (2) a wearable sensor patch that detects medicine and captures physiologic response; (3) a mobile application to support patient self-care; (4) a provider portal to support physician decision-making; and (5) data analytics to serve community health needs.

What are the benefits of digital medicines for patients and their health care providers?

Overall, digital medicines enhance trust and transparency between patients and their health care providers. Patients using digital medicines receive regular feedback digitally about their medication-taking behaviors. With permission, the digital medicines program also shares information with patients’ health care teams to ensure patients get the full value out of their prescriptions toward achieving their health goals. For the health care team, digital medicines improve patient outcomes by measuring ingestions and providing data that leads to improved clinical decision-making and patient engagement, while increasing care team productivity. Most importantly, patients stay healthier with better outcomes, don’t need to see their doctor as often, avoid hospitalizations and enjoy an improved quality of life.

What chronic conditions do digital medicines treat?

They are being used today to treat patients who have trouble controlling their hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Digital medicines are also being used to treat individuals with Hepatitis C, HIV and Tuberculosis.

This sounds interesting, but is it safe for patients?

The key components of digital medicines are an ingestible sensor the size of a grain of salt and a small, wearable sensor patch worn on the patient’s torso. This technology is safe and effective, having undergone 13 years of testing in more than 120 clinical studies, the majority evaluating device system safety and performance. The ingestible sensor is made only of minerals that would be found in a person’s everyday diet — copper, magnesium and silicon in very tiny quantities — which make this extremely safe to ingest with medications.

How do you know this works for people?

Digital medicines have been used by thousands of patients across the country, and it’s proven to work; on average, patients using them consistently take their medications above 87 percent of the time. When people take their medications as prescribed with the help of digital medicines, they achieve their health goals and feel more empowered in their care journey.

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