Monitoring Medicine

January 14 2015

Every year, patient non-adherence to doctors’ prescription guidelines costs the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion. A substantial fraction of that total comes from hospital visits by patients who develop more acute conditions as a result of their non-adherence, and end up requiring expensive medical procedures that they otherwise would not have needed. And for some, even hospitalization is too little or too late—each day, one hundred people in the United States fatally overdose on drugs. Though sometimes intentional, misuse of medication can equally be the result of a patient’s misunderstanding or confusion, especially in the case of elderly patients charged with managing their own drug regimens. To address the issue, a team of six Northwestern University students are building a device to keep patients on track.

MedCap prototype

Mats Johansen, one of the students working on the project, explained, “Our goal is to create directly observable data on a simple user interface for healthcare professionals and families to monitor patient drug regimens.” The device is called MedCap, and it uses Temboo’s Parse Choreos and support for Arduino and BLE to cleverly track and control how patients are taking their medications:

“Our solution to this problem is a lock-on pill bottle cap with a novel mechanism that allows only one pill of any size to come out at a time. This makes the transition from traditional caps to our device as seamless as possible. A sensor built into the cap relays pill intake data to our secure database thanks to Temboo, making the patient’s electronic medical records accessible to the patient, a caretaker, or a physician via our iOS application. In the event that the pill dosage guidelines are not obeyed, the healthcare professionals receive a distress signal, and appropriate action can be taken.”

MedCap 3D rendering

By bringing more concerned parties into direct contact with medication usage data, MedCap introduces a social element to prescription monitoring and adherence. It’s an innovative idea, and we’re looking forward to seeing where the team takes it next!

Every year, patient non-adherence to doctors’ prescription guidelines costs the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion. A substantial fraction of that total comes from hospital visits by patients who develop more acute conditions as a result of their non-adherence, and end up requiring expensive medical procedures that they otherwise would not have needed. And for some, […]

Adopting the Orphan Diseases

December 2 2014

“Orphan diseases” are a medical paradox: by definition, each affects only a small portion of a population, but taken together, one out of every twelve people is afflicted by one. The problem posed by these rare illnesses is not insignificant, and it is only magnified by the paucity of research aimed at discovering cures—the diseases have been “orphaned” by large pharmaceutical companies, which tend to direct their efforts at diseases that affect a broader swath of the populace. It’s a situation that the scientists at Perlstein Lab in San Francisco are seeking to address, and they’re applying a series of novel techniques to do so.

They’ve elected to begin with a group of 50 genetic diseases called Lysosomal Storage Diseases, a category that includes Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick types A-C. These diseases are caused by defects in the enzymes that process waste materials in cells, defects that are themselves caused by any number of combinations of mutated genes inherited from one’s parents. Kiran Singh, a researcher at Perlstein Lab, explained to us how he and his colleagues are going about studying the genetics behind the illnesses:

“We’re also doing something a bit out of the norm in that we’re using a set of model organisms to try and find a potential drug candidate. A lot of people don’t fully appreciate the significant amount of sequence homology of genes in other eukaryotes. By creating certain mutations in these organisms we’re able to model the corresponding human disease and try to find a potential drug/lead candidate.”

And to do that, they’re using Temboo’s Google Spreadsheets, Gmail, and Nexmo Choreos:

“Our platform requires us to keep stocks of our organisms at very specific conditions to optimize their growth. If any of these incubators were to go down unexpectedly it could severely delay our work. Temboo gives us a way to monitor the conditions in the incubators. It also notifies us when something is broken.”

You can learn more about the research being done at the Lab, the science behind their approach, and their mission as a Public Benefit Corporation on their website.

“Orphan diseases” are a medical paradox: by definition, each affects only a small portion of a population, but taken together, one out of every twelve people is afflicted by one. The problem posed by these rare illnesses is not insignificant, and it is only magnified by the paucity of research aimed at discovering cures—the diseases […]
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