Medical and pharmaceuticals: From patient tracking to smart drug packaging

Flexible, organic and printed electronics are one of the key enabling technologies for healthcare in general, with remote patient monitoring and point-of-care devices being key application areas. More and more wearable devices for health and wellbeing contain flexible, organic and printed electronics technologies. The large-area capability, form factor freedom, wide-ranging functionality and potentially lower costs are some of the benefits offered by flexible, organic and printed electronics technologies that are relevant for the abovementioned applications.

Flexible, organic and printed electronics aim to transform healthcare and make health management a natural and unobtrusive part of life.

In the medical world, flexible, organic and printed electronics solutions enable increasing flexibility in determining and controlling important measured values. These include, for example, printed diagnostic sensors in the form of compact disposable wristbands, measuring strips or ultra-thin electrodes that are simply attached to the body.

An example of the fact that there are also opportunities for end consumer products in this area, are special children's thermometers. They continuously record the body temperature, which is then transmitted to and displayed on the parents’ smartphone. First steps are taken for a next generation hands-free, low-cost, at-home ultrasound monitoring solution.

In the health and wellness sector, flexible displays are currently used to expand the functionality of body function trackers for the leisure segment and smartwatches.

In addition, flexible, organic and printed electronics enable patient clothing to be equipped with monitoring functionalities. Functional shirts with integrated sensors assuming various control functions are already available. The next level will be clinic dresses that quickly and easily allow continuous monitoring of all important body parameters or automatically regulate heat.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers can use multifunctional electronic labels printed on the packaging to help prevent drug counterfeiting. Thanks to imprinted NFC labels, individual packages or complete batches can be identified digitally at all times throughout the entire production and use cycle.

In addition, labels can also remind patients to take the next tablet, allowing manufacturers to support correct dosage and thus the best possible effect of their preparations. Due to the strict liability situation, real products of comparable nature are expected to first appear in the sports and leisure sector.

Last but not least, printed lights and lighting elements, so-called OLEDs, are also increasingly finding their way into medicine. Thanks to their enormous flexibility, they open up new possibilities in light therapy, for example.