Guardian angel or watchdog?
Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing depends on who you talk to, but patients do seem more likely to take their medications if a sensor is on board.
Dr. Plowman said he thinks IEMs improve adherence because, with their own health at stake, patients want to do better, and IEM systems provide the extra help they need, complete with positive feedback.
But patients also know they are being watched. The technology is barely off the ground, but concerns have already been raised about surveillance. It’s not hard to imagine insurance companies demanding proof of adherence before paying for expensive drugs. There are privacy concerns as well; everything is encrypted with IEMs, but hackers are clever.
Dr. Plowman and Mr. Travis acknowledged the concerns, and also that there’s no way to know how IEMs – if they take off – will play out in coming decades; it’s a lot like the Internet in 1992.
The intent is for the systems to remain voluntary, as they are now, perhaps with inducements for patients to use them, maybe lower insurance premiums.
“There is something inherently personal about swallowable data,” Dr. Plowman said. “It’s something we take tremendous efforts to protect.” As for compulsory use, “we take enormous strides to prevent that. It’s a major priority.”
“Always, there will be an opt-out” option, said Mr. Travis.
It’s important to consider the potential for IEMs to move medicine forward. When patients with acute bone fractures in one study, for instance, were sent home with the usual handful of oxycodone tablets, it turned out that they only took
Dr. Greeno is an adviser for Proteus; the company covers his travel costs.