A smartphone app developed helps check and follow up on patients who need to take medicines regularly, especially those with tuberculosis, Hepatitis C, blood-borne infections, and addiction.
The patients do not take about half of the drugs prescribed for chronic conditions because of cost or side effects or patient's forgetfulness.
"If we can keep patients engaged, we can keep them in treatment longer," said lead researcher Dr. Judith Tsui of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
Here's how the Selfie medicine app works:
- Open the app and show the pills
- Put them in your mouth and swallow
- Show the empty mouth to the camera
- Upload the video and send it to the clinic
"Every time they sign on, it allows us to capture data. Maybe a phone call from a counselor might make the difference between staying clean and a relapse," said Scott Olson, CEO of Dallas-based Pathway Healthcare, which is trying the app at its Jackson, Tennessee, site.
However, there are concerns regarding privacy, data security and penalties for poor pill-taking. Experts say that it must be used only for specific chronic diseases where regular follow-up is required.
Startups selling the apps say that adult children who are faraway can monitor an elderly parent's daily pill-taking.
Worldwide, tuberculosis (TB) kills more than 1.6 million people annually, though most of the deaths can be prevented with treatment.
TB can be eliminated with simpler, cheaper technologies, said Dr. Daniel Chin, who leads TB efforts for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.