As digital health applications sweep into the health care industry, they stand poised to disrupt the pharmaceutical industry. The discussion is continuing on where this disruption is headed and where the industry stands now in regards to the advent of digital health. The implications for the potential of digital health to change the clinical trials process are particularly compelling. When digital health startups and large pharmaceutical companies attempt to work together, they can encounter some challenges in regards to the implementation of new ideas. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated. Meanwhile, the digital health industry is fast-paced and innovative, and it is working toward new developments all the time.
Advantages of Digital Health Technology
Miscommunication can sometimes arise when these two industries get together. But digital health startups can leverage aspects that are fundamental to them such as innovation, speed, and quick implementation to win over pharmaceutical companies. In a heavily regulated industry, pharmaceutical companies can be slow to move and approach things with caution. The industry is complicated and hard to navigate, something that digital health companies need to be aware of when they enter this space. Collaboration is key here. Pharmaceutical companies absolutely need to incorporate digital health technologies in order to stay relevant and provide the best patient care possible, while digital health companies can benefit significantly from the exposure—millions of consumers—that big pharma can provide.
Digital health startups may sometimes find themselves overwhelmed and frustrated by the slow speed that can be the norm for pharmaceutical companies. However, digital health companies can use speed to their advantage. Data can be assembled quickly, which is often exactly what pharmaceutical companies want, as proof is extremely important in this space. Proof and data are aspects that digital health startups can absolutely provide, and they can do it faster than anyone else in the health care space.
Digital Health Applications in the Pharmaceutical Industry
One of the main ways that digital health technology is making an impact in the pharmaceutical space is by changing the way that clinical trials operate. With the prevalence of smartphones and fitness wearables in society, there is a vast amount of data available. Customers can join nearly any trial they want strictly via their mobile devices. This will help to eliminate the traditional clinical trial methods of coming into a research lab, opening up the sample pool immensely. People who otherwise might not have been able to leave their homes for one reason or another are suddenly now able to participate in clinical trials. Fitness wearables and data that are collected through smartphones can provide researchers with access to data in situations that may occur in their homes, an important factor when testing medications and therapy techniques. How are patients actually going to use these products and methods in their homes? Previously, this type of data was difficult—if not impossible—to maintain. But with mobile data collection, that is changing.
Daily activity is now regularly recorded, ranging from people’s diets to their sleeping habits and activity levels. Physicians and researchers who can access this information have a more informed picture of patient health than they’ve ever had before.
Companion applications designed for patients with certain illnesses or who are taking a particular medication are the new normal. You can now access a digital health app that relates to just about any disorder or illness there is, find online support, medication reminders, and assistance in monitoring your health during the follow-up process. These applications have the potential to minimize costs for patients and make follow-up visits to a physician’s office less of a necessity. By keeping track of their own health while at home, patients can take an active role in their follow-up care, improving their ability to manage chronic conditions with less of a need for a medical provider’s intervention.
Issues with Patients
While this new technology offers significant potential to help patients, the data is only useful if people with chronic diseases are actively using the applications or if clinical trials are available to them. It doesn’t really matter if the option is there if patients are not using them. For example, while fitness and weight loss apps are easy to access, it can sometimes prove challenging to convince people to use the technology. The eventual goal is for patients to incorporate the technology into their lives in a meaningful way, as it has significant potential to improve overall care and enable people to become more involved in their own health care.