Digital Health: Going Clinical

By Katelyn Lewis on January 24th, 2017

It’s 2017 and it’s a digital world!

Our phones can tell us how to get somewhere or it can find you someone to pick you up and take you there. We can see and have a conversation with a loved one half way across the world. We can order anything we need and have it on our doorstep in two days (or even in a matter of hours). So many aspects of our day is going digital, so it makes sense that our health is too! In fact, a recent report issued by StartUp Health said 2016 was a “record-breaking year” with $8 billion invested in over 500 digital health companies calling it a “booming industry.”

While many of us are aware of digital health from more a consumer standpoint (wearable devices and fitness apps), the exercise encouraged by these devices can definitely play a role in disease management strategy. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that we are seeing consumer and clinical applications converge. Let’s take a look into the more clinical side of digital health:

Medication adherence

Physicians are using digital health as a way to improve their patients’ medication adherence. For example, in patients with tuberculosis, failure to follow a medication schedule can result in the treatment being ineffective or even cause the patients to develop a resistance to the drug.

The FDA has approved a pill sensor by Proteus Health for an antipsychotic drug that tracks each pill taken by a patient. This sensor sends information to a patch worn by the patient which then sends information it to a tablet or smart phone. If given permission by the patient, their doctor or family member can also access this information.

This type of sensor could improve medication adherence in situations where it is embedded in a medication for people with dementia – a population that tends to struggle with medication adherence as patients can forget to take their medication or become overwhelmed.

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring with the help of digital health tools allows physicians to monitor and provide care for patients who live too far from a doctor’s office, or who have physical or mental impairments and struggle with transportation.
Also, regularly monitoring people during their day-to-day activities can provide more accurate readings of blood pressure and eliminate the inaccurate readings for high blood pressure due to a patient being nervous for their visit or even uncover a pattern of high blood pressure readings that may not always show up in checks completed just a few times a year in a doctor’s office.

The recent merger of Nokia and Withings is just one example of how the market sees remote patient monitoring affecting clinical outcomes. Cedric Hutchings, former CEO of Withings and now Nokia’s VP of digital health, says that digital health devices have value at home if they’re connected to a clinical platform (Noted in a recent mhealthintelligence article).

Drug development

As mentioned in recent survey results by Validic, using digital health data provides researchers with many opportunities for drug development. Since recruitment for rare and unusual diseases is a challenge, digital health data widens the geographical reach to find individuals for their clinical trials.

Being able to receive real-time results from a clinical trial provides visibility into how the trial is progressing and flags any problems allowing for early interventions. Also, digital health devices play a role in advances made in chronic disease as they can monitor changes over long periods of time. Improvements in the collection of data streamlines clinical trial processes, increase cost effectiveness and ultimately help get drugs to the market quicker.

Now when we talk about digital health, we’re no longer just talking about that wellness challenge you have going with your friends to see how many steps you can get. We’re also talking about preventing diabetes and other chronic conditions, helping your grandparent battling dementia remember to take her medication, or coming up with a drug to cure a rare or deadly disease.

What other ways have you seen or heard about digital health improving clinical outcomes?

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