The Digital Pill Presents Privacy Issues

In November, the FDA approved Abilify MyCite, a pill with a sensor that digitally monitors whether a patient has taken his or her medication.

It’s a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem of patients failing to take their meds as prescribed.

The so-called “digital pill” can tell physicians—and potentially others—if and when a patient takes his or her medication and claims to be a solution to prescription medication nonadherence. That problem costs the American health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year, according to a review in Annals of Internal Medicine. Much of that price tag is attributable to patients getting sicker and requiring additional treatment or hospitalization. More significantly, prescription medication nonadherence is responsible for roughly 125,000 deaths annually, according to the report.

Many healthcare professionals say that the digital pill has the potential to improve public health, especially for individuals who want to take their medication but neglect to do so.

While there are admitted medical and financial benefits of the digital pill, healthcare and data privacy practitioners are concerned about data security and patient consent, seeing it as a slippery slope.

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