Health Monitoring Pharmaceuticals Precision Medicine

What are Smart Pills?

Jagjeet Hara — McMaster Biomedical Discovery & Commercialization 2023

According to Statistics Canada, gastrointestinal (GI) diseases are responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year in Canada across all ages (3). GI diseases are predicted to increase over the next ten years and can impact human health on a global level. Common causes of digestive issues within our population involve chronic stress, harmful pesticides, and the consumption of the Standard American Diet (3)(4).

After identifying this increase in disease prevalence, researchers are aware that there is a gap in diagnostic technology assessing GI symptoms. By turning to the world of smart medical devices, we open up a variety of options for GI disease diagnosis. One of these examples is the SmartPill device.

The SmartPill is a wireless capsule that a physician can use which monitors parameters such as pH, pressure, gastrointestinal transit time, and temperature throughout your digestive tract (5). The capsule is currently approved by the FDA for the diagnosis of conditions that are related to gastric emptying delays and general gastrointestinal motility disease (6).

SOURCE: BASS Medical Group (1)

The SmartPill functions as an endoscopic capsule. Patients swallow an activated wireless pH, pressure, and temperature capsule. This capsule contains sensors that measure pH (with a range of 0.5-9), temperature (with a range of 25-49 °C), and pressure (with a range of 0-350 mmHg) (5). After ingestion, the capsule signals are transmitted from within the GI tract and captured by a receiver. The data receiver is a portable device worn on a belt or a lanyard by the patient and it records information collected by the capsule (5). The data is then stored in the device and transmitted to a computer which provides the physician with the necessary information to evaluate the function of the patient’s stomach and intestines. The patient then continues with their day-to-day activities, and the pill is usually passed within 1-2 days. After passing the pill, the patient returns the data recorder to the physician’s office where the results are then analyzed.

SOURCE: Wang et. al (2)

The current standard of care for diagnostic procedures involves invasive or uncomfortable methods such as upper GI barium swallow tests, gastroscopy, endoscopy, or gastric manometry. The use of the SmartPill, however, may mitigate patient discomfort due to its ingestible approach. For the reliability of results, a study was done assessing the clinical use of wireless motility capsules. The SmartPill capsule detected a generalized motility disorder in 51% of patients (7). The capsule was also shown to influence management decisions in 30% of patients with lower GI disorders and 88% of patients with upper GI disorders (8).  These results show that the SmartPill can function as an advantage to our healthcare system by comfortably assessing gastrointestinal parameters, allowing seamless data collection, and providing physicians with assistance for disease management.


  1. Diagnostic Test: SmartPillTM Motility [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 26]. Available from:
  2. Fig. 5 CAD drawing of SmartPill ® with the location of the sensors and… [Internet]. ResearchGate. [cited 2023 Jan 26]. Available from:
  3. Government of Canada SC. Deaths, by cause, Chapter XI: Diseases of the digestive system (K00 to K93) [ Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from:
  4. Browning KN, Travagli RA. Central Nervous System Control of Gastrointestinal Motility and Secretion and Modulation of Gastrointestinal Functions. Compr Physiol. 2014 Oct;4(4):1339–68.
  5. Tu P, Chi L, Bodnar W, Zhang Z, Gao B, Bian X, et al. Gut Microbiome Toxicity: Connecting the Environment and Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. Toxics. 2020 Mar 12;8(1):19.
  6. Cassilly D, Kantor S, Knight LC, Maurer AH, Fisher RS, Semler J, et al. Gastric emptying of a non-digestible solid: assessment with simultaneous SmartPill pH and pressure capsule, antroduodenal manometry, gastric emptying scintigraphy. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2008;20(4):311–9.
  7. SmartPill Wins 510(k) Release From FDA [Internet]. BioSpace. [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from:
  8. Saad RJ, Hasler WL. A Technical Review and Clinical Assessment of the Wireless Motility Capsule. Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 Dec;7(12):795–804.
Health Monitoring

How does Remote Patient Monitoring Facilitate Care?

Pooja Sharma—McMaster Life Sciences (Honours) 2023

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability, causing two-thirds of deaths in Ontario1. 80% of adults over the age of 45 have a chronic condition and almost 70% suffer from more than one chronic condition1. As expected, this comes with an economic cost, one that costs the Canadian healthcare system millions, but also an even larger personal cost for patients.

The traditional health care model that most of us are accustomed to excepts patients to come in for in-person visits. However, this may not be possible for many patients as they are hindered by road blocks such as work schedules, travel time, mobility issues, weather and lack of transportation2. As a result, access to care is limited and many patients are left self-managing their fluctuating symptoms until their next doctor’s appointment, if they are even able to make it to one.

However, this might not be the case moving forward, as the healthcare sector, like many others, is quickly recognizing and adopting innovative solutions that are making the delivery of healthcare more convenient, timely, and cost-efficient for all stakeholders involved. One of the tools that the healthcare sector is turning to help bridge pre-existing gaps and facilitate care remotely is remote patient monitoring.


What is Remote Patient Monitoring?

Remote patient monitoring, a subset of telehealth, is a health care delivery model that leverages digital technology to monitor and record real-time patient health data outside of traditional healthcare settings such as the doctor’s office and/or the emergency room3. Undoubtedly, remote monitoring devices such as glucose meters, introduced decades ago, have allowed patients to monitor their blood sugar at home. However, remote patient monitoring adds new value as data is shared (through electronically connected devices) to health care providers to assess and recommend changes to treatment if any concerning results appear. As a result, data does not immediately dissipate after you are finished using your monitoring device, instead it remains in your health records and allows for patient-centered and data-driven care.

With increasing advances to technological innovations, there are many remote patient monitoring devices that providers may use to manage different health care conditions. However, the most common remote patient monitoring devices include weight monitors, blood pressures monitors, spirometers, and blood glucose meters4.

Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring

1. Increased Convenience and Accessibility

Remote patient monitoring programs bridge the gap of accessing care as it delivers care to patients regardless of their location and/or time. This allows patients with limited mobility, chronic conditions, and seniors to receive care in the comfort of their homes. Seniors aged 85 and older are the fastest growing population in Canada today, and over 78% of them want to be able to age in place in their homes5. Remote patient monitoring programs may be one part of the solution to helping them remain healthy and independent at home5.

2. Improved Quality of Care

Through remote patient monitoring programs healthcare practitioners have access to health data between visits which enables them to have a holistic understanding of the patient’s healthcare condition. As a result, they are able to alter treatment plans immediately in real-time. This leads to fewer emergency room visits, clinic visits, and hospitalizations6.

3. Prevents Spread of Infectious Disease

Remote patient monitoring is crucial in preventing infectious disease as patients would no longer need to visit in person to receive care and be unnecessarily exposed to healthcare settings where they could easily contract infections6. This was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic as limiting human contact was crucial in preventing the spread of the virus. Remote patient monitoring would also enable providers to monitor patients with infectious diseases without coming into direct contact with them. For instance, spirometers can be used to measure airflow and as a result are useful for remotely assessing how well the patient’s lungs works, this could be useful for vulnerable patients experiencing COVID-19 or lung conditions.

4.  Enhance Patient Education and Engagement

Health care practitioners can send educational resources that are catered to patient needs, along with information that can help them improve lifestyle behaviours such as different exercises to follow or different foods that they can incorporate into their diet 6. This allows patients to be more educated about their health and in turn feel empowered to make changes or manage their health more carefully.


  1. Government of Ontario, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Preventing and Managing Chronic Disease [Internet]. [cited 2022Dec22]. Available from:
  2. Siwicki B. How remote patient monitoring improves care, saves money for chronic care [Internet]. Healthcare IT News. 2022 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from:
  3. Dolan S. Remote Patient Monitoring Trends & Health Devices in 2022 [Internet]. Insider Intelligence. 2022 [cited 2022Dec22]. Available from:
  4. Prevounce. A comprehensive guide to Remote Patient Monitoring [Internet]. [cited 2022Dec22]. Available from:
  5. March of Dimes Canada. National Survey Shows Canadians Overwhelmingly Want to Age at Home; Just One-Quarter of Seniors Expect to Do So [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022Dec22]. Available from:
  6. Scott J. The benefits of remote patient monitoring are wide ranging [Internet]. HealthTech. 2022 [cited 2022Dec2]. Available from:
Consumer Gadgets Health Monitoring Startups

The Future of Health Monitoring with Consumer Gadgets

Stephanie Chung — McMaster Honours Life Sciences 2023

As technology continues to progress and aid in daily activities, people nowadays are growing increasingly dependent upon their smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices. With this trend, there is a growing market and consumer base for individuals to use health monitoring devices in order to keep track of the status of their bodies. These gadgets are either wearable or embedded into an individual’s environment(1) and able to keep track of health vitals, fitness and specialized health concerns. The overall goal of health monitoring consumer gadgets are to report accurate results for users, thus involving monitoring and storing data pertaining to the consumer. The ways in which results are monitored vary based on the specific technology and goal of the technological wear, such as through sensors on the products and microcontrollers(2). Depending on the device, different sensors are able to obtain measurements such as temperature, heart pulse/rhythm, blood sugar levels and other data pertaining to the purpose of the gadget.

Popular gadgets include smart watches, headbands and some devices tailored towards individuals with certain medical needs that measure blood pressure (bp) and asthma monitors. Smart watches have been targeted towards the general public as a means of being able to keep track of heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, sleep and activity levels, blood oxygen and even electrocardiograms(3). These watches have also been seamlessly integrated with common conveniences many use, such as being able to send and receive messages, phone calls, notifications, etc., in a small and portable form-factor. Smart headbands, like electroencephalography (EEG) headbands, have been developed to monitor the mental health of individuals through being used for meditation, measuring breathing patterns and heart rate(4). EEG devices monitor and offer the user feedback on their measurements in hopes of aiding them to become a more skilled meditator(5). Blood pressure monitors that are portable are convenient as they may be used anywhere and can track trends and changes. This information may be used in order to see if a physician is required to intervene in cases where vitals are abnormal (e.g. bp might be too high, indicating hypertension) and subsequent new course of action is required(6). In addition, asthma monitors, such as a Peak Flow Meter are useful as they take measurements daily regarding the expiratory flow rate of an individual and allows the user to keep track of changes if  they occur(7). This serves as an indicator and tool to help determine whether intervention is required and how the individual’s asthma is being managed(7).

As wearable technology is gaining popularity, there is the proposal of using wearable sensors a few days prior to physical examinations, thus relying upon the sensors to gather data pertaining to the patient’s vitals(1). This will collect measurements regarding your body’s physiological state (temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate) and thus practitioners will be able to use the longitudinal information gathered in order to assess and evaluate the patient’s health(1). As this has yet to be achieved, it is in the midst of being implemented in order to improve the healthcare of individuals through being able to more accurately diagnose patients as well as be more time-efficient to aid more people. This can be compared to blood pressure and asthma monitors that are indicative to physicians of a patient’s status and aid them in figuring out a course of action. In conclusion, as technology and medicine continue to be intertwined, there will be more products targeting specific health conditions. It can even be seen that smart watches which began as tracking steps and calories are now able to measure heart rate and other features. At the current rate of advancement, the future of wearable technology is optimistic and will arrive much sooner than you think.  


  1. Saha HN, Auddy S, Pal S, Kumar S, Pandey S, Singh R, et al. Health monitoring using internet of things (IoT). IEEE [Internet]. 2017 Aug [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
  2. Goel AK. Modern electronics wearable gadgets for health monitoring. STM Journals [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 6(2): 11-16. Available from:
  3. Baig EC. Newest smartwatches move from tracking fitness to monitoring health [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: AARP; 2020 Sep [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
  4. Hunkin H, King DL, Zajac, IT. Perceived acceptability of wearable devices for the treatment of mental health problems. J. Clin. Psychol [Internet]. 2020 Feb [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 76(6): 987-1003. Available from:
  5. Balconi M, Fronda G, Venturella I, Crivelli D. Conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious mechanisms in emotional behaviour. Some applications to the mindfulness approach with wearable devices. Appl. Sci [Internet]. 2017 Dec [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 7(12): 1-14. Available from:
  6. Harvard Medical School. The benefits of do-it-yourself blood pressure monitoring [Internet]. Harvard University in Massachusetts, United States: Harvard Health Publishing; 2018 July [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
  7. Asthma Canada. Peak flow meters [Internet]. Toronto, Canada: Asthma Canada; 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
Health Monitoring

Consumer Gadgets—The Future of Health Monitoring?

Bhargavi Venkataraman — McMaster University Bachelor of Health Sciences 2024

In the 21st century, technology pervades every facet of life and is increasingly allowing individuals to take control of more aspects of their lives at their own discretion. Health monitoring is one such area which has shown extensive progress through the use of consumer gadgets, primarily in the form of wearable technology. 

Smartwatch manufacturers like Fitbit and Garmin have become household names and their prevalence has allowed more and more consumers to manage their exercise regimen, heart health and dietary requirements in a convenient manner. Aside from the standard pedometer, heart rate sensing and sleep tracking features, newer smartwatches are also starting to include inbuilt EKGs, electrodermal sensors, blood oxygen level tracking and more.1These features can help users detect things like atrial fibrillation (a common sign of stroke), physical signs of excessive stress through electrical changes in sweat levels, and abnormal blood oxygen levels, which could be a sign of anything from lung function issues to neurological disorders.1 

This advanced kind of monitoring allows consumers to notice symptoms of critical illnesses earlier and get professional help before their conditions worsen, making these gadgets a valuable asset for monitoring individual health. Smartwatches are not the only health monitoring consumer gadgets that are gaining popularity. For example, biosensors are a class of self-adhesive patches that collect movement, heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature data while people are on the move.2 Research in Augusta Medical University Centre has shown that there is an 89% reduction in patient deterioration in preventable cardiac or respiratory arrest when regularly using biosensors.2These inconspicuous but effective patches are excellent in office environments as a method for reducing staff workload, opening up a whole new avenue of possibilities in the future of health monitoring.

Source: John Rogers. Tiny biosensor patches worn on skin show big promise [Internet]. CBS News. CBS Interactive; 2014 [cited 2021Mar7]. Available from:

Besides these gadgets, our own smartphones have become instruments for health tracking through apps like Moodpath for anxiety and depression, Remente for water drinking and sleeping habits, and Flo for menstrual cycle tracking.6 With advanced tracking methods built into phones themselves, awareness about various health issues is rising, making for an overall healthier population. 

It is clear that health monitoring devices are becoming increasingly prevalent in the greater population, resulting in numerous implications. In terms of positives, data from these technologies could potentially influence insurer decisions, reduce hospital visits due to frequent personal health scares and even encourage healthier corporate culture by better management of workloads and stress.4

Nonetheless, there are also some negative implications. There are safety concerns about the devices malfunctioning, like a case in 2017 where a woman suffered second-degree burns from her FitBit allegedly catching fire.5 Furthermore, many of these gadgets collect private information in order to function and there are many issues surrounding the data security and privacy regarding the use and distribution of this information.3 

Ultimately, smart consumer gadgets have had a substantial positive impact on health monitoring and advancements in this field of technology shows great potential to increase universal health. However, there are still numerous concerns about the safety and security of the technology that is playing such an intimate role in daily lives. In order to utilize these gadgets to their full potential, these ramifications need to be addressed. If done properly, health monitoring technology will continue to lead to massive advancement in healthcare throughout the world.


1. Baig EC. 4 Smartwatch Features That Track Your Overall Health [Internet]. AARP. 2020 [cited 2021Feb21]. Available from:

2. Phaneuf A. Latest trends in medical monitoring devices and wearable health technology [Internet]. Business Insider. Business Insider; 2021 [cited 2021Feb21]. Available from:

3. IoT Big Data: Consumer Wearables, Data Privacy and Security [Internet]. American Bar Association. [cited 2021Feb21]. Available from: 15-16/ november-december/IoT-Big-Data-Consumer-Wearables-Data-Privacy-Security/

4. Drees J. How the new patient consumer is powering remote monitoring growth: 6 details [Internet]. Becker’s Hospital Review. [cited 2021Feb21]. Available from: power ing-remote-monitoring-growth-6-details.html 

5. Dispatch. The health impacts of wearable technology [Internet]. The NYU Dispatch. 2018 [cited 2021Feb21]. Available from:

6. Jewell T. Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps of 2020 [Internet]. Healthline. Healthline Media; 2020 [cited 2021Feb21]. Available from: