“Digital Pills” Revolutionize Medicine for Disabled & Incapacitated Persons

In November, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first “digital pill” for an anti-psychotic medication. The pill was embedded with a chip or sensor, which sends a signal to a receiver, an adhesive patch worn by the patient who ingested the pill. Information regarding the dosage and time of ingestion is then transmitted from the receiver to a smartphone app that can be accessed by the patient and authorized individuals. This particular “digital pill” was designed for patients with mental illness who forgot or otherwise fail to take their prescribed medication. But “digital pills” for hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other conditions also have been developed.

When a patient does not take the required dosage of medication or does not take the medication at the prescribed intervals, the chances of the treatment being successful is greatly diminished. “Digital pills” will allow doctors, caregivers, health care proxies, guardians and family members of disabled or incapacitated individuals to electronically and remotely monitor a patient’s medication compliance. These benefits, of course, must be balanced with the privacy issues raised by digital pills, including concerns under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA).

In New York, home health aides are not authorized to administer medications to the people they care for. This restriction poses a challenge for incapacitated persons who are prescribed life-saving medications. Incapacitated individuals who require home care, or those whose family members simply live far away, are at risk of not take their medication or taking it properly. Individuals who rely on others, such as their health care proxies or guardians, to manage their medication regiment, and those they they rely on, will mutually benefit from the undeniable convenience and other benefits of “digital pills.” “Digital pills” are particularly well-suited for persons suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments that impede their ability to be medication compliant. For guardians, in particular, “digital pills” may be a powerful tool in their ability to effectively carry out their guardianship duties for their wards residing alone in the community.

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