The next logical step in the evolution of the health and wellness market, ingestible technology is poised to occupy a huge place in the healthcare marketplace over the next three to four years.
The Basics of Ingestible Tech
Otherwise known as “smart pills,” ingestible technology refers to electronic devices that are swallowed by patients to accomplish or aid in a broad spectrum of treatment or diagnostic healthcare processes. In general, this technology is dominated by a range of medical sensors, each one specifically designed to detect, record, and report a particular heath/wellness characteristic or condition.
But what are ingestible sensors, exactly? And how to they work? Briefly described, an ingestible sensor looks similar if not identical to a traditional pharmaceutical capsule. Although small in size, these high-tech pills include a range of tech components such as microprocessors, controllers, power supplies, and monitoring instruments. Of course, because these smart pills are designed to pass through the human body, they must be made of materials that are wholly biocompatible and completely safe to swallow.
Although huge sections of the general population remain unaware of ingestible tech and its enormous potential, scientists and physicians are already accomplishing amazing things in this rapidly emerging sector. Subhra Pradhan, a PhD in chemical biology with a focus on the molecular genetics of pathogenic bacteria, presented just a few examples in a 2019 article for the independent research organization PreScouter.
These examples include a pill by Proteus Digital Health that can actually record the moment that a patient takes it. Connecting to a digital network, this pill contains a sensor that becomes activated by electrolytes within the body upon consumption. This allows concerned friends and family members to rest easy because they will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when an elderly loved one has taken his or her medication on a daily basis. Each of these Proteus Digital Health pills contains a sensor that is only one square millimeter in length but can communicate exact dosage information to healthcare providers and other interested parties in real time. This sensor is coated in copper and magnesium – two digestible metals that occur naturally in the typical human diet, but can work wonders when it comes to tracking regular medication compliance.
Other remarkable ingestible tech products detailed by Dr. Pradhan and PreScouter include a disposable pill that can actually replace the universally dreaded colonoscopy procedure. The Israeli company Given Imaging has produced a pill that contains a small battery-powered camera that takes high-speed photos of the intestinal tract as it passes through it. This colonoscopy pill instantaneously sends the images that it records to a second device that a patient wears around his or her waist, which in turn sends these images to the computer or tablet of the patient’s doctor. Named the PillCam COLON, the pill has been fully approved through the United States Food and Drug Administration. Although it is currently recommended only for patients who experience pronounced difficulties while undergoing standard colonoscopies because of various anatomical problems, the potential for technologies such as the PillCam COLON are both varied and virtually unlimited.
The Ascendency of the Ingestible Tech Market
Ingestible tech is regarded by a preponderance of healthcare professionals and market analysts as the next step in the evolution of healthcare technology after wearable sensors that can monitor everything from heart rate to blood sugar. However, ingestible tech has more than a few hurdles to overcome in terms of general public perception. In short, many people are simply unsettled by the very notion of putting tiny computer components, cameras, and other equipment into their bodies.
As ingestible tech continues to evolve, there is little doubt that it will raise a wide range of legal, scientific, and ethical questions. In addition to general and specific health concerns, this form of tech opens the door to issues of patient privacy and effective data sharing as it communicates information drawn from within the human body to medical providers and organizations on that span the globe.
However, the far-reaching benefits of ingestible tech cannot be denied. In one of the first comprehensive market analyses of ingestible tech, Grand View Research valued the total value of the global ingestible sensor market at $491 million in 2016.
As the market continues to evolve, companies are devising a variety of ways to introduce healthcare technology to a wary public and take the necessary “baby steps” toward a widespread acceptance of ingestible tech. As an example, the medical startup facilitator MaRS has discussed a smart pill bottle from Adhere Tech that lights up and buzzes much like a cell phone in order to remind people to take their medication at the proper time. This smart bottle can even send text and/or voice messages that communicate prescribed dosages and keep track of metrics such as the number of remaining pills in the bottle and the number of times that its lid has been opened and closed.
Products like the Adhere Tech smart bottle may bridge the gap to a future in which ingestible tech is commonplace. In short, as patients get more and more comfortable with incorporating technology into their daily health and wellness routines, their willingness to literally swallow this technology will increase by leaps and bounds.
The vast majority of healthcare professionals and market analysts agree that the market for ingestible sensors is going to experience explosive growth over the next few years. Mordor Intelligence expects the ingestible sensor market to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.7 percent by 2024, while Research and Markets expects a CAGR of 20.06 percent by 2023.
Predicting a CAGR of 22.22 percent as the ingestible sensor market matures, Market Research Future presents an even sunnier picture of this emerging medical technology. According to this research, the total value of the global ingestible sensor market will ultimately exceed $87.10 billion.
Tips for Marketing Ingestible Tech
In light of these remarkable statistical projections, pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations should certainly pay close attention to the massive potential of ingestible tech and smart pills marketing. However, far too many healthcare advertising agencies are arriving far too late to the ingestible tech party.
If you want to capitalize on the rapidly expanding ingestible tech market, now is the time to develop your strategy and launch your campaign. Here are just a few key guidelines to help you create and propagate marketing messages that will be sure to resonate with the general public.
- Stay up to date with new technological advances as they emerge –Advances in the ingestible tech sector are both ongoing and diverse. Most experts agree that the existing smart pills discussed above, despite their remarkable nature, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the massive potential of this sector. A 2018 article by Wired singles out the absence of adequate micro-tech power supplies as one of the greatest hurdles standing in the way of further ingestible tech development. However, MIT has developed incredible technology that harnesses the properties of stomach acid to power small sensors within the human stomach. By paying close attention to ongoing developments such as this, healthcare marketers will be in a far better position to promote and sell ingestible technology to existing and potential customers.
- Recognizing and communicating key ingestible tech features, advantages, and benefits – The patients of today are better informed about their various medical issues and more involved in their overall own health and wellness than ever before. Therefore, they are more likely to seek out and consume healthcare information than any generation that came before them. Specifically, they want to know how evolving healthcare technology and medical modalities can help provide them with care that is more advanced, targeted, and comprehensive, leading to quicker overall recovery times and better overall outcomes. By identifying the key benefits of specific ingestible tech products and highlighting them in your advertising campaigns for those products, you can overcome the stigmas that ingestible tech may carry in the minds of your targeted audience demographic.
- Countering existing fears and negative perceptions – As we have previously discussed, your chosen target audience is bound to have a variety of health and personal privacy concerns when it comes to ingestible tech. To combat these fears and negative perceptions, it is absolutely vital to address them in your marketing materials. Counter health concerns by stressing the biocompatible nature of your products and their proven safety. Tout the fact that your products have passed rigorous official health and safety standards such as those of the FDA. Both pharma and general healthcare organizations should also stress the fact that their ingestible tech mirrors the familiar form of a common pill capsule in terms of size, shape, substance, and general appearance. Personal privacy and information security concerns can be addressed by ensuring consumers that any pictures taken or data collected by ingestible sensors will be sent directly to the intended recipient or recipients (qualified healthcare professionals, close loved ones, and/or the patient him or herself). Absolutely no one else should be able to access the results that are produced by the ingestible tech process.
- Appreciating both positive and negative issues that relate to change and adoption – Make no mistake: the advent of ingestible tech constitutes a major sea change in the health and wellness sector. Even consumers without specific safety and security concerns will have a range of questions about this cutting-edge technology (how does it work?, how was it developed?, how long has it been in use?, etc.). Your ingestible tech marketing campaign must learn to anticipate these questions and address them proactively. Of course, all adverting materials should be benefit based, so all information provided should lead directly to the key advantages that smart pills present as compared with the technology that came before them. After all, most patients will welcome a small, swallowable device such as the PillCam COLON when the alternative is a traditional colonoscopy procedure with all of the discomfort and/or embarrassment that it typically entails.
- Presenting complicated technology in non-technical terms that anyone can easily understand – In addition to heavily stressing the benefits of your smart pill products, your explanations of specific ingestible tech modalities must be clearly presented in layman’s terms. However, as you “dumb down” the highly technical language that often goes hand in hand with ingestible tech, make sure that your explanation remains entirely accurate and true to the spirit of the product/procedure at hand. In addition to using simple language and maintaining a warm and familiar tone in the written or spoken elements of your marketing materials, you should also include clear diagrams and other visual elements. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings particularly true when it comes to illustrating the complex and highly clinical intricacies of ingestible tech.
Getting Professional Help
When it comes to ingestible tech, securing effective management and advisement in the worlds of medical device marketing and/or general health and wellness marketing can be daunting to say the least. Because ingestible tech is still positioned on the cutting edge of state-of-the-art medicine, the average healthcare marketing agency or pharma marketing agency simply doesn’t know what to do with it.
If you’re looking for an ingestible tech branding agency or if you simply have questions about this amazing new market, contact a skilled and knowledgeable marketing professional at Bigeye today.
As a highly innovative healthcare marketing firm, we take a forward-thinking approach that embraces the as-yet untapped potential of new medical technologies. Get ahead of the ingestible tech curve with us!