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In this President's Letter, Frederica explains how digital health technology innovation is predicting a new way of monitoring our health via the Smart Pill. Would you try it? Please let us hear your thoughts.

President, JB Homer Associates

The Race Toward the Development of Digital Healthcare Technology:
A Smart Pill To Ingest And The Challenges That Follow...

Welcome to disruptive, healthcare technology, which opens up brand new issues and unprecedented scrutiny, not just by doctors, but by corporations and lawmakers alike. This technology is advancing so quickly that no one knows how to best protect patients and their personal information. Here-in lie the questions pertaining to bioethics. The Professor of Bioethics at NYU, Arthur Caplan, begs the following questions: "Who keeps the records?" "Where do they go?" "Do they ever get cleared?" "What happens?"

There are more than a dozen companies today, looking to develop, monitor vital signs, get sensors to have patients take their pills on time and to release medication into their bodies, as needed.

For example, there are "smart pills" which are seeking regulatory approval today, which can monitor and track the patient through their smartphone. As the smart pill dissolves, it activates a chip which is programmed to transmit a text message to the patient's smartphone. It then reverts back to the patient, family members, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies as new data to track whether patients are taking their medications consistently.

There are digital health apps currently in clinical trials, one of which could use facial recognition and other machine learning tools to empower each patient to put knowledge into their own hands. This information would technically help them to stay on track and take better care of themselves.

Scientists are even working on more advanced prototypes. Nanosensors, for example, would live in the bloodstream and send messages to a patient's smartphone whenever they see signs of infection, an impending heart attack, or other issues.

It is in the interest of health and insurance companies to use digital data to design better and more cost effective courses of treatment. On the other hand, any benefits could come at the cost of privacy to the patient and affect HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

In the final analysis, could this create more demand for information from employers, the courts, and the police? Who would get to see your data, in the end? One could reason that it would serve as a new tool for authorities and employees to regulate behavior.

Could a court, order continuous monitoring of a drug addict or an alcoholic by making a patient use microchip-embedded drugs as a way to verify drug treatment and control behavior? This could lead to a complicated, legal situation. Moreover, would these chips be implanted for a few months or permanently?

These questions may not be written into law until the courts, legislatures, or professional organizations are forced to resolve them. As a result, this could literally become "a hard pill to swallow".

Please share your thoughts on this highly important topic: fbolgouras@jbhomer.com

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