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Technology

Take your pills, take a selfie

April 17th, 2018
in:Technology
by:Shira Jeczmien
located in:USA
tags:Directly Observational Therapy (DOT), electronic monitoring, selfie

It all starts with a simple question really, is health worth more than privacy? On the surface it seems like a no brainer, choosing life is always easiest, but at closer look, there may be more to it than meets the eye.

Not taking subscription pills—otherwise known as medication nonadherence—is a common deter of treatment and a very large financial burden on the market. Approximately 30%-50% of patients in the U.S. don’t take their subscribed medication in the correct way (if at all), leading to an estimated $100 billion in preventable costs annually. This of course includes the costs of the waisted pharmaceuticals, but also the costs of further treatment as a consequence. While these aren’t news per se; doctors and researchers have been desperately trying to innovate new ways to monitor their patients’ daily intakes—pill-opticon technology is but a mere drop in an ocean of attempts to rectify the disconnection between medical advancement and human incomplience. If GPS pills sending out signals to GPs once they’ve been swallowed is too much, and good old patient-doctor trust too little, could a selfie be a compromise?

Researchers in the U.S. are currently testing how patients react and commit to daily selfie videos that document the medicine, themselves, the digestion of the pills—and of course the empty mouth shot to seal the deal and make the whole thing legitimately trustworthy. Currently in development stages, what this soon-to-be app wants to do is connect patients to clinics across the country. Users need only open the app, take a video, and send to their registered physician or clinic: a middle man of a highly invasive process if you will. There is of course a positive side to this proposition, it’s simplicity is one, and its use of an already existing technology is another. And as CEO of Dallas-based Pathway Healthcare Scott Olson said in an interview, “Every time they sign on, it allows us to capture data. Are they having cravings? Suicidal tendencies? Maybe a phone call from a counselor might make the difference between staying clean and a relapse.”

This digital adaptation of Directly Observational Therapy (DOT), monikered selfie medicine, is trying to solve a major issue. It is already saving Houston, Texas, $100,000 a year by replacing a care service that sees nurses travel to the homes of Tuberculosis patients to monitor the intake of medication—of which there is two per day. In that regard, it isn’t so much the agency of patients that this new service could be hindering (monitoring a person’s intake of medication isn’t new either, and at times it is crucial, especially for recovering opioid addicts or Tuberculosis ongoing medication for example). But selfie medicine does pose a risk, particularly today, in the handling of sensitive personal data while it also oversteps a much needed human-to-human interaction.

In a time when electronic monitoring is gaining traction—China’s social credit system, or India’s newly proposed mandatory fingerprint, facial and eye registration for all its citizens come to mind—this type of digital micro surveillance is perhaps a quick solution, but is it really the output we’d like to offer for the future? In the race to save lives and money—fast, many of the deeper issues tend to get overlooked. A more obvious gateway this opens is that of insurance companies in the U.S. and even the national health service available for some Americans. Digital monitoring is a first step in the door of benefits for compliance and punishments for disobedience, something China’s Social Credit system plans to take full advantage of.

Selfie medicine can help millions of people overcome a variety of illnesses or help simply existing with them, but we better keep an eye out to who is jumping on board, for what reason, and that this system is used for personal monitoring only, rather than third party perks.

This article was published first on Screen Shot Magazine.

Article written by:
Shira Jeczmien
Author, Contributing Editor
Current Map: Our coverage
Embed from Getty Images
Not taking subscription pills—otherwise known as medication nonadherence—is a common deter of treatment and a very large financial burden on the market.
Embed from Getty Images
Researchers are currently testing how patients react and commit to daily selfie videos that document the medicine, themselves and the digestion of the pills.
Embed from Getty Images
Currently in development stages, what this soon-to-be app wants to do is connect patients to clinics across the country.

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