Modern medicine can completely change someone’s life for the better, but only if they’re actually taking their prescriptions like they’re supposed to. Ensuring that a patient is actually taking their meds has, up to now, relied on the word of the patient, but the honor system is about to go the way of the dodo thanks to a new “digital pill” technology that can actually track whether or not you’re sticking to the doctor’s orders.

The new ingestible tracking device has been approved for use in at least one popular prescription drug thus far, but many more could follow. The groundbreaking new advancement is designed to help doctors make their patients’ lives better, but some are already worried that it could open up door to privacy invasions of an entirely new nature.

The new digital pill works by relaying a signal from a tiny sensor embedded in the pill itself (which is activated by the liquid in the human stomach) to a wearable patch on the patient. The patch then sends that signal to a smartphone app where both the patient and their doctor can use to track the proper medication schedule.

The FDA has approved the use of the system with the popular drug Abilify, which is used to treat a variety of mental illnesses and disorders including depression and bipolar disorder. The idea here is that by ensuring the patient is taking their pills regularly, and on time, the doctor can be assured that their patient is not at an increased risk of unpredictable or dangerous behavior. However, whether or not the digital pill will actually improve patient compliance with their prescribed medications has not yet been proven, and will certainly be of interest as the first of the sensor-equipped pills roll out.

But the usefulness of the sensor system could extend beyond mental health, and tracking the medication regimens of heart patients, diabetes sufferers, and the elderly could be the next logical application.

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