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New Year Brings New Smart Technology to Patients, Practices


The good news is the cost of “smart” technology designed for certain uses is dropping, and may be worth a closer look by physician practices.

Over the last two years, a lot of “smart” technology has been introduced for various healthcare purposes. And based on some of the news releases we’ve seen lately, 2011 will probably be the “smartest” year yet - at least when it comes to getting patients to take and monitor their medications.

The only problem? While high-tech stuff may improve outcomes, lower adverse events, and even keep patients from being hospitalized, practice-based physicians are already feeling the purse pinch when it comes to technology costs (hello EHR investment!).

The good news is the cost of “smart” technology designed for certain uses is dropping. One newbie that caught our eye is a “smart” medicine-bottle cap, announced Jan. 4 by AT&T and Vitality.

Available now for $10 per cap and $15 per month with a connectivity service plan, the new Vitality GlowCaps are designed to help patients take medications regularly by sending reminders like weekly e-mail reports and follow-ups like monthly updates sent to your physician.

Vitality’s AT&T-connected GlowCaps fit on standard prescription bottles and use light and sound reminder alerts. These can be followed by a phone call or text message so a user is less likely to miss a dose. Each time the pill bottle is opened, adherence data is recorded and securely relayed to Vitality over the AT&T wireless network, according to a press release.

In turn, daily adherence information is used to compile periodic progress reports that are sent to patients, doctors, and family members.

As medication compliance (or lack thereof) is linked with adverse events in older populations (CMS’ ‘Home Health Compare’ tool actually rates HHAs based on how well they get patients to follow an oral-medication regimen), physicians that serve baby boomer patients might want to consider “smart” little helpers. What's more, a recent estimate from the New England Healthcare Institute reveals the cost resulting from non-adherence is about $300 billion annually.

And if smart pill bottles seem like a potentially smart investment (or at least a cool idea), consider how cool it would be if actual pills were as smart as their containers.

Turns out, scientists are toiling away to create tablets and capsules that are trackable from the time they are put into a medicine bottle through the end of a patient’s gastrointestinal tract.

According to a few news reports, these watchdog pills are equipped with teensy little cameras that report data back to a recorder or smartphone, so you can tell when your patient took their medication, how much they took, and other valuable information.

What kinds of smart technology have you heard about that has piqued your interest? What kind of smart technology would be useful to your practice? Post your feedback below.

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