Nurse Peggy Cooley has used Skype for years to chat live with patients taking TB medicine.
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The National Institute on Drug Abuse is funding research to tailor a smartphone app for those patients and see if they'll use it.For monitoring tuberculosis patients, health departments pay roughly $35 to $50 per patient each month for systems that include encrypted data storage.If patients don't take all their antibiotics, their infectious TB germs can get stronger, developing drug resistance and endangering the broader community.But taking a handful of pills daily for up to a year is difficult, so public health departments traditionally sent workers to people's homes and workplaces to watch them take their doses. Today, many TB patients prefer remote monitoring. Nurse Peggy Cooley has used Skype for years to chat live with patients taking TB medicine.In Boston, Albuquerque and five other cities, researchers are studying whether the technology works for hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that's surging among a new generation of injection drug users. New drugs for hepatitis C can cure, but they're expensive – $75,000 for a 12-week course of treatment – so insurers want to make sure patients take them.Worldwide, TB kills more than 1.6 million people annually, even though most deaths are preventable with treatment.
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