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New Phone Apps Nudge People to Take Their Pills

Take two tablets and a selfie? Your doctor’s orders may one day include a smartphone video to make sure you took your medicine.

Smartphone apps that monitor pill-taking are now available, and researchers are testing how well they work when medication matters. Experts praise the efficiency, but some say the technology raises privacy and data security concerns.

Selfie medicine works like this: Open an app on your phone, show your pills, put them in your mouth and swallow. Don’t forget to show your empty mouth to the camera to prove today’s dose is on its way. Then upload the video proof to the clinic.

Fans say the technology addresses a big problem: About half of drugs for chronic conditions aren’t taken as prescribed because of cost, side effects or patient forgetfulness.

Woman uses selfie app to track patient medication

Manuel Valdes/AP

The proof is in the picture as the use of selfie apps track patient medication.

With treatment for opioid addiction, a skipped dose can mean a dangerous relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is funding research to tailor a smartphone app for those patients and see if they’ll use it.

“If we can keep patients engaged, we can keep them in treatment longer,” said lead researcher Judith Tsui, an internist who focuses on addiction at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

The new uploaded selfies don’t need an appointment. They are a daily routine for many tuberculosis patients in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston, where savings on mileage and worker time amounted to $100,000 in a recent year.

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