Patient engagement has become the key to improving quality of care. The larger the role a patient plays in his or her own healthcare, the smaller the possibility of readmission. The adoption of patient portals along with the incorporation of mobile health apps has enabled physicians and patients to work together on successful personalized treatment plans. However, patient engagement is soon to experience an extreme makeover with the introduction of micro-scale body sensors.
Micro-scale body sensors transmit crucial health information and tackle the challenge of patient adherence. They work from inside the patient’s body, without batteries and without wires. While some sensors are still in the process of gaining FDA approval, many are soon to hit the market.
Micro-scale body sensors currently exist in three forms, offering different methods of application: intimate contact, ingestible and implantable.
Intimate Contact Sensors
Intimate contact sensors are the least invasive option and the closest to entering the mobile health market. They have been used for many years for other health purposes and are not as intrusive as other body sensors. When in contact with a patient’s skin, intimate contact sensors can transmit an individual’s health information to a smartphone or other device.
For patients who are comfortable with a more invasive method, ingestibles may be the micro-scale body sensor of choice. Ingestibles come in the form of a pill and contain a chip that has the same health tracking abilities as today’s wearables. Once a patient has swallowed the pill, it lodges itself in the stomach and transmits his or her health information to a physician or healthcare application.
There are three forms of ingestibles:
- The thermometer pill, which records a patient’s core body temperature and transmits the information to a smartphone.
- The camera pill, which takes pictures from inside the body and sends them to the patient’s physician.
- The wireless sensor pill, which reports if and when the patient has swallowed his or her medication.
Implantables are the most invasive body sensors, as they are physically embedded in the patient’s body. This method is best for patients whose health is at risk. For example, they can monitor glucose levels for diabetics and blood pressure for individuals with a history of cardiac arrest. Although some patients might not be comfortable with the idea of inserting a sensor into the body, implantables transmit the most precise health information.
While some consumers view micro-scale body sensors as groundbreaking technology, others have developed a fear of Big Brother making its way into healthcare. These devices keep track of where a patient goes, what a patient drinks and eats, and if the patient is following the doctor’s orders.
If given the opportunity, would you incorporate micro-scale body sensors into your treatment plans?