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Digital Healthcare 101: What is Digital Medicine?


Healthcare is steadily marching into a digital realm: digital healthcare, digital healthtech, and digital medicine. While we hear a lot about the first two, popular media is being less loud about digital medicine.

Some people think that digital medicine is akin to e-prescribing or medication prescribed during a VirtualCare visit. In reality, digital medicine is a field focused on the use of technologies as tools for measurement, and intervention in the service of human health. Digital medicine products are driven by high-quality hardware and software that support the practice of medicine broadly, including treatment, recovery, disease prevention, and health promotion for individuals and across populations. Digital medicine products are evidence-based tools that support the practice of medicine.

Digital medicine solutions track health information and collect or measure health data that can be used to manage a health condition. Examples of digital medicine solutions include:

  • Electronic clinical outcome assessments and tools that measure adherence and safety (e.g., a wearable sensor that tracks falls).
  • Wearable sensors that track your blood sugar, such as continuous glucose monitors (CGMs)
  • Pills that have built-in cameras that can be used instead of a colonoscopy (colon cancer screening)
  • Digital pills (ingestible sensors inserted to a medicine)

It is important to note that other wearable devices, such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch are not considered digital medicine tools or medical devices because they aren’t intended for medical diagnosis and they did not receive FDA approval, only FDA ‘clearance’. Furthermore, some features, such as a blood oxygen monitor in Apple Watch, require neither a clearance nor an approval, since they are marketed as ‘wellness tools’.

Digital Pills

An evolving development in digital medicine are digital pills (DP). Digital pills are designed to digitally track if patients have ingested their prescription medications in an effort to ensure medication adherence, and in some cases it also monitors health-related lifestyle habits.

DP consists of three complementary elements: an ingestible sensor, a wearable patch and a mobile application connected to an external web server. Once a patient swallows a pill with an ingestible sensor, the sensor sends a signal to a wearable patch which transmits data to a web-based portal, making the data available to the circle of care, the patient, and the healthcare provider.

Digital pills are designed to improve medication adherence, however, there are many concerns with privacy and ethics surrounding digital pills.

Who practices digital medicine?

The same individuals that practice traditional medicine practice digital medicine: pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and health investigators. Some field experts include medical researchers who study behavioural and population health on the list.

To conclude, digital medicine uses technology for different purposes. It gives patients more control of their healthcare, for example, glucose monitoring devices allow patients to track sugar levels and inject themselves with insulin when needed. Digital pills, on the other hand, provide extra support to patients who need it. All in all, digital medicine complements traditional healthcare practices and allows a continuity of care beyond a clinician’s office, however, it still gives rise to privacy issues and ethical considerations.

MDBriefCase offers leading continuing medication courses for physicians, pharmacists, and nurses, including a digital medicine course on Glucose Monitoring: Optimizing Diabetes Care and Management.  Explore more MDBriefCase diabetes management courses with a free MDBriefCase account:

For pharmacists: Advances in Insulin and Glucose Monitoring Technology Over the Last Century

For physicians: Advances in Blood Glucose Monitoring and Insulin Delivery

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