UMass Thinks a Digital Pill Could Improve Medication Adherence Rates

Researchers from the university are studying a digitized capsule that can tell doctors when a patient has taken his or her medicine.

UMass Medical School (UMMS) wants to know when you’re ignoring doctor’s orders. Researchers at the school are studying how a digital pill called the ID-Cap could lead to better medical adherence rates.

The ID-Cap is manufactured by Florida-based company e-Tect, and is capable of immediately telling doctors when a patient has taken his or her medicine. The medicine-filled capsule dissolves into the patient’s body like any other—but unlike the antibiotics you’ve been taking for years, a transmitter in the capsule sends information out to an external device once stomach acid activates the pill. That way, doctors can see if an individual took his or her prescription as ordered.

Sound a little Big Brother-ish? Perhaps, but patients ignoring or deviating from prescriptions is a real problem in the medical field. A 2011 study found that as many as 50 percent of patients do not follow doctor’s orders, and a 2014 study out of Canada said about a third of people never fill prescriptions in the first place. Following medication plans is apparently enough of an issue for the average person that there are entire businesses devoted to making medical adherence easier.

The digital pill system would, hopefully, reverse those issues. In a statement, UMMS professor and researcher Ed Boyer said the capsule could change the way doctors monitor patients and improve overall patient health:

“For the elderly who may have difficulty remembering to take their medication, this technology would be fantastic. For people who have to take medications on a long-term basis, this would be very useful. The applications for this kind of technology are enormous,” Boyer said.

UMMS plans to conduct a trial focused on the capsules’ efficacy next, giving the pills to about 30 people prescribed oxycodone for below-the-knee fractures to see how much of an impact the ID-Cap has on medical adherence.