Packaging That Talks

The patient information leaflets accompanying your medication or medical devices can give you migraines if you try to read them without reading glasses -- or a magnifying glass. It can be especially difficult for visually impaired and elderly people to read and remember simple usage information such as dosage, frequency, and whether to use before or after food. I know of some patients who religiously make a note of when they take their medicine as prescribed.

Jayaraman Kiruthi Vasan

I did some Internet searching find out whether it is possible to make the usage of medical devices and drugs easier and found a year-old news story about a "talking" packaging project called HearMeFeelMe.

HearMeFeelMe is a joint effort of VTT Technical Research of Finland, Top Tunniste of Spain, and Demokritos of Greece focused on the use of the latest short-range wireless communication technology -- near field communication (NFC). NFC is a way for smartphones and similar devices to wirelessly communicate by touching each other or bringing them in close proximity, usually within a few centimeters.

This wireless technology is picking up fast and has the potential to be used in contactless payment systems. It could turn your smartphone into a credit card.

Now, turning our discussion to medical packaging, an NFC tag, similar to the RFID tags used in apparel, is embedded into the medical device or drug packaging. When read by an NFC-enabled mobile phone, spoken dosage and other handling instructions can be delivered to the user. Prior to the sale, a pharmacy or MDM stores the requisite data on the NFC tag.

Even a visually impaired person could touch the tablet strip with his phone and receive the medicine's name, dosage, and other usage instructions.

The technology could also allow people to keep track of usage. The NFC tag could inform the physician and the patient or caregiver of when medication is due and send a reminder to their phones. The patient, after taking the medicine, acknowledges by touching the packaging with her phone. This simple maneuver also enables logging of the treatment regimen and informs the physician of any misuse by the patient.

Stay relevant as a medical device packaging engineer

Jayaraman Kiruthi Vasan, Consultant - Electromechanical Systems, Healthcare Technology Innovation Centre, Indian Institute Of Technology, Madras

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