How the new “digital pill” could revolutionize treatment for people with severe mental illness

A “digital pill” sounds like something out of The Matrix, but it’s actually very real. On November 13th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a digital pill that could revolutionize mental illness treatment by informing doctors when a patient has taken their medication, and if they’re doing so properly.

This new advancement could be the answer to a problem many doctors face: knowing if their patients are taking their medications as prescribed. The digital pill is currently being made in the form of the drug Abilify, a medication used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and Tourette syndrome.

If the digital pill works as planned, it could positively transform treatment for people with mental illness, and in the future, treatment for many other illnesses and disabilities that require medication.

Each digital pill contains an extremely small sensor that generates an electric charge after becoming wet post-swallowing. The sensor shoots a message to a patch worn on the body that is connected wirelessly to the patient’s smartphone. A smartphone app then collects the patient’s medication routine data, and the patient’s doctor, along with four other people, can be granted access to this data for online viewing.

As Dr. John LaPook stated in the above segment with CBS News, there are a few privacy concerns regarding the invention of a digital pill. With information traveling digitally from patient to doctor, the risk for technological error and hacking is prevalent. Although, many can argue that the risk of patient information hacking is already high for patient records that are kept in electronic data bases within hospitals.

Patients must agree to take the digital pill and will not be forced into using this medication administering technique.

The New York Times states that the digital pill might be welcomed most by older patients who need help remembering whether or not they have taken their daily medication.

Ultimately, there are still several hurdles to jump over while developing a widespread digital pill. But the positive implications for the future are exciting for many patients and doctors alike.

Filed Under