Redwood City, CA – We’ve all done it at some point in our lives. Despite the reminders on our smartphones or color-coded pill boxes, forgetting to take your medication on time happens. In fact, about 60% of people admit to forgetting to take their meds. And for those that manage to remember, only 25% to 50% of patients worldwide actually take their medicine correctly. According to one study, not taking medication as prescribed leads to roughly 125,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Researchers are taking note and uncovering ways to help fix the problem. Meet the smart pill.

“We need to take responsibility for our own health and care, but when it comes to drug-taking and medication use, that may not be sufficient,” said Dr. Niteesh K. Chouhdry, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Proteus Digital Health, a California-based health tech startup hopes to help reinforce better behavior through a one-millimeter sensor that is embedded in medications. Once the medication is swallowed, the sensor will turn on when it makes contact with a patient’s stomach acid. The sensor then sends a signal to a palm-size patch the patient wears on their skin. The patch can track physiological signs such as steps, rest and heart rate. It’s also connected to a smartphone app for patients and a desktop browser portal for doctors to use.

After the FDA approved an antipsychotic drug with Proteus technology in 2017, other prominent health companies have emerged to invest over $1.5 billion in funding for Proteus to continue developing other medications that use their ingestible sensors. To date, more than 1,000 patients have used the pill tracking system. But, Proteus Digital Health isn’t the only company getting in on smart pill technology. Another medical startup, EtectRx, is in the process of developing their own smart pill, ID-Cap, that can reveal when medication has been successfully taken by a patient.

“We believe our technology will, in some small way, help clinicians help their patients take their medicine,” said Harry Travis, president and CEO of EtectRx.

While the smart pill is still awaiting clearance from the FDA, it has been the subject of a study being carried out through a partnership between Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Fenway Institute and Fenway Health. The study will examine the potential for the technology to track patients adhering to taking their HIV medication.

Why This Matters – 

New tech is constantly being developed. From our personal needs to our medical needs, tech startups are popping up across the world to leverage these new advancements and reinforce the behavior our doctors hope for us to not only just start, but continue over time.

Have you checked out our 40 Marketing Microstrategies? We created a toolkit that provides insights into 40 ways brands are connecting with their customers in innovative and unexpected ways. Leveraging Healthy Nudges is one of them. In this microstrategy, we identify that this year, we’ll see more teams focused on constantly refilling the motivation bucket with context and consistent support and reminders that will help turn interest to action, action to commitment and commitment to resilience.

About the Author:

Khye Tucker is an Innovation Strategist in Columbus, OH. With a passion for writing and a background in communications, Khye strives to bring brand stories to life through a fresh perspective, innovative thinking and creative storytelling.