If you're not afraid to swallow your technology, you may want to check out new tech cleared by the Food and Drug Administration this week that lets you ingest a digital sensor powered by stomach acid that alerts your doctors about your health and your treatment habits.
The technology consists of a tiny, silicon-based sensor that, at 1mm wide (roughly the size of a grain of sand), can be consumed via pills and pharmaceuticals and pass through the body much like high-fiber food.
According to the developer, Proteus Digital Health, once the sensor is swallowed, stomach fluids that come into contact with it provide enough power to relay a signal that documents exactly when it was taken. This data is transmitted to a battery-powered patch worn on the skin that detects the signal and records the exact time the sensor was swallowed.
The disposable patch, which has a life span of seven days, collects several metrics, including heart rate, temperature, and body position, and relays that information to a mobile-phone app. If the patient consents, this data is shared with caregivers and clinicians to help develop patient-specific and data-driven care.
Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of genomics at The Scripps Research Institute and author of "The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare," says in a news release that the digital health feedback system is an emerging technology that could improve not only a patient's adherence to a treatment regimen but also chronic-disease management: "The FDA validation represents a major milestone in digital medicine."
Proteus, which anticipated FDA approval at some point in 2012, is vague on cost, stating that it depends on "the context in which the system is being used." Time will tell if insurance providers will cover the system now that it has been cleared in the U.S. (it was previously OKed by European regulators), but until then, the novel technology seems most likely to be used in clinical settings.