Over the last decade the pharmaceutical sector has witnessed the rise of technological means to monitor, guide and evaluate patient adherence: smart e-devices, nanotechnology, wearable sensors, avant-garde robotics, connected & mobile Apps, ad hoc medical platforms, data gathering systems, etc. Humanity is not as sceptic, nor resistant as it used to be; the potential benefits and advantages are breaking down previous perceptions and barriers. We are genuinely embracing technology into our routines, letting it work with us, around us and for us.
Electronic medical devices are already capable of accurately assessing individual competence and accommodate accordingly, reporting on user behaviours, guiding them along medication regimens and ultimately enhancing coordination of care and its efficacy.
Without interfering with drug chemistry, these new generations of devices offer multiple and interesting advantages:
Tailored Health Services
Tailoring care and routine to individuals.
Smart Safety Features
Preventing mechanical misuse, but also warning if products are expired, inappropriately stored or damaged.
Improve individuals’ medication experience. For example, the pain relief functionalities added to auto-injectors, which engage the user on both a physical and psychological level (skin sensing for correct injection angle, hidden needles to decrease anxiety, self-cooling on injection site as a mild anaesthetic, vibration to distract from pain, etc.)
Increasing usability and comfort, even when faced with impairment (audio-visual deficiency, limited dexterity) thanks to automated delivery, device feedbacks, live ergonomic adjustments and interactive instructions.
Digital Software Integration
Creating extremely versatile products that can adapt to different age groups and demographics, whilst supporting different brands or drug platforms. Thanks to their digital nature, they can be easily updated, scaling up their lifecycle and commercial lifespan.
Direct or indirect, through performance monitoring, feedbacks and informed recommendations.
Direct contact with general practitioners, immediate remote advice or intervention.
Reusability and Corporate Responsibility
Increased device intelligence usually grants customisation and reusability, resulting in a more sustainable solution when we talk big numbers.
These novel smart devices are now considered the market’s ‘gold standard’ in terms of adherence, providing a reliable alternative to patient’s subjective monitoring.
However, 'smart' products do not necessarily have to imply embedded electronics to be considered as such. Effective human-centric design can promote adherence and prevent misuse in many other creative and efficient ways...
What about a future where people on medications do not need reminders or training any more?
Emerging technologies have reached an exciting stage where the application of future medical care is no longer restricted by traditional environments, beliefs and behaviours.
Common medicines could be delivered via foodstuff, while smart cutlery could keep track of the quality and quantity of meals, providing live feedback for diabetics’ insulin control or on potential allergens. Asthma preventive nano-medications could be embedded into a person's bedding and slowly released while sleeping. These same drugs could be applied to the mouth via make-up, being absorbed during the course of the day, or via toothbrushes for a twice daily dose. Smart garments could automatically react to environmental conditions and household items, such as flooring tiles and carpets, could track our body chemistry, overall statistics and postural behaviour.