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How technology is driving new trends in patient engagement

by Alicia Staley


Alicia Staley

It is an incredible time to be involved in the life sciences industry. The transformation we are witnessing is revolutionary to such a degree that we only have to look back ten to 15 years to see a vastly different landscape.

But, for all the individual changes in disease understanding, R&D and medicine availability, one of the most game-changing amendments over the past decade is in the concept of precision medicine.

Today, there are so many tests that can be done, all generating vast amounts of data. When we layer on additional technological advancements covering everything from smartphone applications to AI and machine learning, we’re merging two separate but parallel development streams that create a constant cycle of improvement simply by co-existing.

We have so much computing power on our phones and some of the devices that we carry that it’s opening doors to opportunities that we never thought possible.

Tech giants diving into life sciences

There’s no question that the life sciences industry is slower to adopt these technological advances than other, more nimble sectors. But what’s happening is that these other sectors, particularly consumer electronics, are massively influencing how the life sciences industry engages with technology.

Companies like Amazon, Apple and Google are stepping into healthcare, causing a ripple effect throughout the life sciences industry. Historically these technology giants have had nothing to do with life sciences but by simply entering into the sector they are injecting change into many aspects of the industry.

These tech giants make innovative technology affordable and accessible to the masses. This allows for transformational changes in life sciences to occur on a timescale that was considered next to impossible only a few years ago.

These outside market forces are pushing the life sciences industry to take bold steps forward. While the life sciences industry is constrained by numerous regulations designed to protect the patient and the clinical research process, pure play technology brands do not have comparable regulations.

As an industry, we need to be bold in pushing through new solutions while always keeping the patient at the centre of these solutions. Better outcomes for patients is what we’re trying to deliver.

Patients at the core

There’s no question that technological advances have improved the patient experience. An increased focus on data portability or interoperability – the movement of and sharing of data – will help the industry deliver more effective and efficient solutions for patients. Patient data includes medical records, care management notes, lab tests and other information that moves from department to department.

Of course, there will be times when this information is sensitive but that shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle when a comprehensive view of a patient’s medical history and treatment journey are available.

But it’s not easy to build a collaborative framework that allows for multiple members of a patient’s healthcare team to work together, which is why it doesn’t exist yet. While this is a disappointment, it is not holding up advancements in the life sciences industry. This is because patients today can walk around with a Fitbit or tracker.

These devices help improve fitness and are giving patients insights into different aspects of their lives. By tracking things like sleeping and breathing capacity we’re getting greater insight into how our body works on a day- to-day, real-time basis. Patients are engaged in this information and we’re seeing people change their lifestyle habits based on data they get from the sensors.

Patient-centred medicine

Historically, the response to technology has come with a high price tag because it has required a new piece of software or process. Over time, technical efficiencies have driven down costs and this is the stage global healthcare is at today. Initial discussions were around higher costs or investments that needed to deliver ROI but this has had the halo effect of shining a light on the concept of cost.

Now we’ve reached a stage where we are seeing a two-way conversation between patients and the industry for the first time. This is promoting greater awareness and understanding of the big picture of drug development and underlining that the costs of bringing a new drug to market are very high.

As a patient and a professional in this industry, I have a deep respect for the cost structure. But we need to do more to educate patients. Working in collaboration with patients will help reduce costs but anytime the subject of ‘innovation’ comes up, it’s going to involve some form of payment. However, we’re now at a point where we can build a framework of engagement with patients like never before.

For the first time, we have an opportunity to see the patient perspective and work with it in ways that haven’t previously been possible. Patients are becoming more comfortable with their stories and sharing them in a way that’s actionable, because patients want to improve the outlook for the next generation who go through the same illness as they have.

Patient advocates around the world are working with the life sciences industry in a collaborative fashion, and that is only going to bring about more innovation. Today, patients are getting involved in the development life cycle. We’re seeing the patient voice in software development in a very iterative fashion, which adds very actionable input in areas like product improvement.

The next evolution in life sciences

Technology in clinical trials is laying the foundation for the future. Look at how advanced today’s clinical trials are compared to a few years ago, and the possibilities that have opened up through digital and virtual reality. This is bringing opportunities for efficiencies into the process that we didn’t have previously.

From the opportunity to create data sets around therapy areas to simply looking for trends in a bigger or more diverse populous, the data, technology and desire are all there. It is this global and collaborative framework that is the basis for the next evolution in life sciences.

Alicia Staley is Senior Director of Patient Engagement at Medidata

7th October 2019

From: Marketing


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