EU-funded MEDICATE system ensures that patients follow their prescription

Newtownabbey 17 June 2004Strange as it may seem, many people fail to take the medications prescribed by their doctor. To help patients comply with their medication regimes, MEDICATE uses dispensers with intelligent labels that communicate with a server. Non-compliance, in other words not following medication regimes, is a serious problem: the patient's symptoms persist, and the medications are wasted, as is the doctor's time spent diagnosing the condition. In the United Kingdom alone, the waste is estimated at 120 billion euro.

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"We're finding that non-compliance is actually a very complex problem", stated Dr. Chris Nugent of the University of Ulster, and co-ordinator of the IST project MEDICATE. "Medication involves many people, including patients, doctors, pharmacists, health care visitors, and more. They each have their ideas on how the problem should be solved. MEDICATE uses Internet-based care models and provides support for a number of actors in the prescribing chain."

The patient uses a Compliance Aid, which is an electronic medication dispenser with 28 containers for medication. "If you needed to take four doses a day, it would last for a week", commented Dr. Nugent. "The unit plugs into the phone line and automatically connects to the central server to report compliance without the patient having to become involved."

"For the health care professionals, the doctor can enter prescriptions details into the MEDICATE system", explained Dr. Nugent. "The pharmacist can then see each patient's requirements and packages up the medication for the Compliance Aid. Each container has an electronic radio frequency ID (RFID) label that stores information electronically and can be read and updated with a low-powered reader device."

"Our goal is to provide a system such that when the patient visits the doctor and it turns out, for example, that the blood pressure is still high, the doctor can check to see if non compliance is the problem", stated Dr. Nugent. "MEDICATE could be integrated with other telemedicine care models, such as blood pressure monitoring, spirometry for asthma, and others. We have several business models for commercially exploiting our system, and the Greek partner, Ergo, will probably sell the device. We see big market opportunities for MEDICATE and have received a lot of interest."

More information is available at the Web site of the MEDICATE project. This article has been reprinted from the European Commission's IST results Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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