Prescription medication saves lives and improves the quality of life for millions of patients fighting disease and chronic conditions. The big problem, however, is that these medications don’t work if the patient doesn’t take them. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, lack of adherence to medication instructions for patients with chronic diseases results in at least 10% of all hospitalizations, about 125,000 deaths, and up to $290 billion in increased healthcare costs every year. About half of the medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed.

Healthcare systems could save a significant amount of money if they could simply increase medication adherence among their patients with chronic conditions. The Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, has started using smart pills to monitor patients who have hypertension, which is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S. The system is using the Proteus Discover technology, which we covered three years ago. A tiny sensor is attached to each pill, which is made of non-toxic materials and that is activated by stomach acids. The patient wears a sensor patch on their stomach, and when a pill passes the patch, the time is recorded. The patch is also able to record patient data such as heart rate and physical activity. This information is then transmitted to a smartphone app so that the patient and healthcare providers can monitor their adherence.

The Proteus system has received FDA clearance and has been used in more than 60 clinical studies. Rush University Medical Center is the first healthcare provider in Illinois to start using the system, and is one of eight health systems nationwide that are using it. If these systems find that their overall costs are reduced by using these smart pills, we can expect to see more healthcare providers follow suit.