Tech Tools Tackle Medication Problems

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , July 16, 2013

With this decision, the Supreme Court established that patients badly injured by a generic drug cannot sue the manufacturer.

So, more than ever, pity the poor emergency room physician, confronted by an incoming patient with a baggie full of pills, many of them generics, barely identified or distinguishable from each other.

Meanwhile, families may be taking home bags of medicines from pharmacies, and storing them together in a common place. Confusion is bound to result, and probably does.

Enter technology. MedSnap is an app for the iPhone 4S or 5 that identifies sets of pills in a single snapshot, checks against the patient's drug regimen, flags drug/drug and drug/disease interactions, and in the process improves a vast and growing collection of crowdsourced knowledge about the shape, imprints and textures of medications to improve future identification.

Initially aimed at emergency room and home health care personnel, MedSnap holds the potential for such an app to live on every smartphone, ultimately to be used by patients themselves.

It is possible to truly geek out on the cleverness of this system. The app takes great care to get a good picture. The MedSnap system includes a specially-printed card upon which users place the medications. This card offers proper measurement and corrects for color variations in the surrounding light. Just to be sure, the app requires the camera's flash also be used to reduce color variation. Fortunately, more and more smartphones are coming equipped with flash, and before too long it will probably be a standard feature on some tablets.

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