Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cell Phone Cure

Photo by Rodolfo Clix
Ingenious students at MIT have devised a program which addresses the problems associated with treating patients for tuberculosis:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Researchers at MIT believe they've discovered a new weapon in the battle against tuberculosis: Free cell phone minutes.For years, doctors have struggled to get some TB patients to take all their medication, which generally involves a six-month regimen of multiple drugs.

Now a student-led group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a way to use cell phones to let patients test themselves. And if the tests show patients are following doctor's orders, they get rewarded with free minutes.

In 2006, the most recent year statistics are available, 9.2 million people worldwide were diagnosed with tuberculosis and 1.7 million died.

The disease can be cured with a steady regimen of drugs. But many patients start feeling better and stop taking the medicine too soon. Others abandon the drugs because of side effects such as nausea, fever and rashes.

If the drugs are taken only sporadically, the bacteria build up resistance. The WHO estimates that 5 to 10 percent of TB deaths are patients who stop taking medication properly.

You can read the AP article in it's entirety here

Experts agree that the concept has potential, but also stresses the importance of the continued patient to healthcare-provider interface.

I would be interested to hear what the folks over at e-Patients have to say regarding this concept. At first reading, this seems to me to be a good way to encourage patients to be engaged in their treatment, to be able to monitor their response to medication, and to be rewarded in a very concrete way for their efforts. 

Patient empowerment is a good thing, regardless of the disease or state of wellness of the individual. 

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