Raise your hand if you use a mobile health app. Is yours up? Mine is! According to a recent survey1, 33 percent of you likely raised your hand as well.
This study explored the digital healthcare experience of ~8,000 consumers across seven countries. Looking back on usage of mHealth apps and wearables, it is apparent that health tracking is increasingly becoming routine as usage doubled from 2014 to 20161. With the trajectory at which technology is advancing, it is not surprising (to me, anyway!) that people are taking their healthcare experience into their own hands.
Think about your daily routine. What is the first thing you do when you wake up? Many of us grab our smartphones to check news or emails and perhaps even check an app. Maybe you check your sleep monitoring app to see how well you slept overnight. As the morning progresses you may log any food, medication, vitamins, and/or water ingested via a health monitoring app. Maybe you use an app to track your blood glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and/or exercise, in conjunction with a health wearable. Or you may also fill a prescription via an app or have a mobile nurse or doctor visit where use of a tablet or smartphone is involved. Regardless, technology is rapidly becoming an intrinsic part of our day-to-day lives.
What does this mean for clinical trials?
With patient centricity being an important pillar in trial design, mHealth has the potential to further enhance a positive experience for patients. Benefits can include:
- Reduced site visits
- Enhanced motivation and compliance
- Better data quality
As with anything related to patient recruitment, retention and study management, one size does not fit all. It is essential that feasibility and the value of mHealth to a trial be evaluated in advance of deciding to move forward.
Ask yourself the following key questions to better understand if and how a mHealth strategy might be right for your trial:
- What are the demographics of the target patient population?
- How long is the trial?
- What are our top priorities for this trial?
- What elements of the trial would mHealth benefit? Do these align with our top priorities?
- Would we require a new app to be designed or can we leverage existing technology?
- How would mHealth improve the patient experience? How would it impede it?
- How would mHealth improve the site experience? How would it impede it?
In order for benefits of mHealth to be realized, the primary users need to be on-board and comfortable with the technology. One of the most common missteps that we see sponsors make is not engaging the individuals who are on the front line, conducting the trial – site staff! Seek their invaluable perspective throughout the planning and development process. You won’t regret it. This approach will ensure seamless integration into your clinical program while also building advocates for the technology and strengthening these important relationships.
All of this said, fear of the unknown can be one of the most limiting factors to moving forward with an initiative – a valid concern. Industry professionals agree that mHealth is in its infancy when it comes to its use and application to clinical trials; however, the majority consider it to be very important2. You may find yourself hesitant to dip your toes into the mHealth waters from a security and regulation standpoint – yet another valid concern. Rest assured, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken a proactive step to ensure that sponsors are not blindly going forth by creating an interactive guidance tool.
Overall, there are endless possibilities and opportunities to change the patient experience for the better while more efficiently completing clinical trials. Are you open to exploring the possibilities?