Digital Medication: How Patient-centered Healthcare Influences the Evolution of Pharma

Digital pills, personalized medicine and delocalized healthcare are only some of the keywords that play an important role when it comes to new developments in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry these days. The following article explains how digital healthcare can simplify treatments and the challenges that the pharmaceutical industry will encounter when these technologies are adopted.

Tracking medication adherence through digital pills

Have you ever thought about ingesting a pill that is capable of sending information to your smartphone? It sounds a little bit futuristic but is in fact becoming a reality. In November 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a pill that contains a sensor that captures information about the use of medication. After ingesting the so-called 'digital pill', the sensor begins transmitting medical data and sends it to a patch that is located on the patient's torso. Meanwhile a variety of physiological measures are collected and sent directly to a mobile phone app. Both patient and physician have access to the collected data and can see how well the patient is using and responding to the medication. The process simplifies the monitoring of patients and helps to discover issues faster.

Personalized medicine for everyone

Usually new therapies and medication are only available for the general population after a long process of research and testing. Now it could be possible to reduce cost and time exposure by focusing on personalized medicine that is targeted at the individual genome. So-called organs-on-chips contain microfluidic channels with living human cells that serve as micro artificial hearts, kidneys, lungs and other organs. The cells are tested with several treatments until the right treatment, that is tailored to the individuals' genetic makeup, is found. These chips could replace traditional animal testing and aim to deliver personalized medicine by using individual cells on a chip.

Delocalized healthcare

The role that artificial intelligence (AI) is playing in the medical sector is growing steadily. A large number of diagnostic apps are capable of identifying a variety of constitutional symptoms. Thanks to global connectivity, physicians can make a diagnosis without seeing and touching the patient directly. Patients can communicate via chatbots or video consultations with doctors. Medical data that has been collected through diagnostic apps are provided to ensure that all necessary information needed for a treatment is available.

The use of augmented reality to support physicians

Augmented reality and virtual reality are often mixed up, however there are significant differences between the two technologies. While virtual reality is providing an entire simulation through shutting out everything else completely, augmented reality projects digital information onto the existing environment in the real world. It is said that both technologies will have much potential in healthcare when it comes to medical treatment. Augmented reality can play an important role, for example, when detailed patient data is needed when decisions have to be made quickly. Take for example, a physician who needs to check during a surgery if the patient has a certain type of allergy. Instead of searching the necessary information amongst a variety of papers, they could see the relevant data on an augmented reality screen in a couple of seconds.

The benefits of digital healthcare are obvious. However, there are some challenges that have to be overcome when it comes to the implementation of such innovations. Although the approval of the digital pill seems to be a sign that regulators are comfortable with digital medicine, there is still some skepticism amongst pharmaceutical companies. Privacy concerns are one of the main reasons why it will take longer to adopt such technologies in some countries. A successful adoption of digital healthcare technologies like augmented reality screens or digital pills is only possible when both physicians and patients are ready to use it. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that digital health will play an important in the evolution of global pharma.


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