A couple of health stories have caught my eye recently, and both look at possible future technological advances in healthcare. Of course, technology has been used for years to diagnose disease and improve administration of medicines amongst other things, and now it could be used to increase patient compliance and understanding of their conditions.
Firstly, there was the story of a remote-control microchip implanted under the skin and used to release medication from little wells, coated with a thin layer of platinum and titanium that breaks when an electrical current is applied to release the drug. The small trial, using seven Danish women with osteoporosis, saw a parathyroid hormone usually administered via self-injection delivered this way with a device under the skin at the waist. There are a few pitfalls to overcome (the device didn't work in one patient and only one device survived the manufacturing process with the full twenty drug wells), but it is clear that sometime in the future something like this could be useful and improve compliance in patients that have to self inject or have demanding medication routines. The team behind the study say a product suitable for more widespread use is still five years away, but even as someone who is technology shy I think it's a fascinating concept.
Secondly, the headline "GPs "to prescibe "health apps"" drew my attention. The Department of Health is proposing that GPs could advice the use of certain smartphone apps to help a patient track their condition, and while the details are yet to be revealed the Health Secretary is keen to publicise apps as another source of reliable support and easy access to health professionals for patients. One idea is that patients could get free access via their doctors to apps that usually cost money. Now, as a non-smartphone user I can immediately see a problem with this - there is a risk that those patients without smartphones will be left behind, if this scheme proves popular and doctors have no alternative to offer those patients without smartphones who want the same level of support as those with access to the apps. Nevertheless, for those patients who do have smartphones it is an interesting development and could certainly help people to better understand their condition.
So, drug delivery managed by a microchip and a remote control, and a prescribed app to track your diabetes - definitely big ideas to keep your eye on!