Smartphones are changing our lives every day. Almost every industry is affected by the mobile revolution in one way or another. At George Clinical, we are in the business of clinical trials and we see how even the clinical trial industry is getting a big makeover thanks to healthcare applications that are a growing trend in smartphone and mobile applications. In addition to mobile applications, there is the addition of the newer and even faster growing trend of wearables. Wearables are digital devices that monitor the user’s’ vitals, movements, and more. Because these mobile applications and wearables are making users more aware of their health, nutrition and exercise, the overall impact is a positive one. Estimates put the wearable and mobile health industry at over $173 billion by 2020.
How are Mobile Health Applications Impacting the Clinical Trial Industry?
With the advent and adoption of healthcare apps, more people are open to and able to participate in clinical trials. The ease of data collection and increased accuracy of that data collected has led more clinical trial organisers to create more trials and the ease of participation has, in turn, led to an increase in participants. As the wearable and healthcare app industry grows, the potential for clinical trials also will increase.
Just last year, Apple launched a new application that comes with the Apple Watch. The applications are called The Research Kit and it is revolutionising the clinical research industry and taking it by storm. Apple Watch users can download clinical trial applications and it will start collecting anonymous data. This means that now millions of people can learn about and participate in clinical trials. At the same time, the amount of research that can be collected is growing and making more studies possible and the increase in data collected makes the information more reliable since it applies to larger populations.
Apple Watch Users are Opting in and Making a Difference Already
Just in the last year, The Research Kit has made a big difference in clinical trials. John Wilbanks’ the developer of mPower, a Parkinson’s App for The Research Kit says, “After six hours, we have 7,406 people enrolled in our Parkinson’s study. Prior to that, the largest study total was 1,700 people.” Bloomberg reported that Stanford University’s cardiovascular trial attracted more volunteers in one day after releasing their MyHeart Counts App than it would normally acquire in a year. (Source: ClinicalLeader.com.) The mobile health application industry really is in its infancy. As the Apple Watch sensors and application technologies improve along with the rest of the industry, the potential for increases in clinical trial participation is exponential.
How Clinical Research Companies Collect Digital App Data / Ease of Data Collection
Before these new technologies were available, data collection for clinical trials were performed in clinic, or via follow up with phone. The closest thing we had available that mimicked the convenience and functionality of today’s digital applications were the electronic patient diaries. Now, wearables and mobile applications do not require in-clinic monitoring and participants can send in data remotely, so they can get away with less in-person visits during the length of a trial. The additional added benefit that digital apps have over the electronic patient diaries of the past is that the information is automatically collected and sent digitally rather than having to rely on the trial participant completing the diary and turning it in. The future looks even brighter for the ease and increased accuracy of data collection because the FDA recently approved a new form of measurement, ingestibles. That is right! New technology allows patients or participants to swallow a pill that monitors blood levels and other metrics from within. Just this past September of 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first ingestible, or digestible microchip. The sand-particle sized sensor has a tiny silicon chip that has trace amounts of magnesium and copper. The first approval is for placebo pills only, but other drugs are likely to be approved within the very near future. The benefits of this sensor are that it alerts doctors when patients are taking their prescribed medications, or if they are not taking them as prescribed. This is a safe and accurate method of measurement that is also done remotely without the need for in-person clinic visits and eliminates the need for blood draws to determine if the medicine is being taken properly. Other new inventions down the line will also have a positive impact on this industry including smart fabrics, intelligent sensors, smart contact lenses in addition to the ingestibles we already mentioned.