->Source: Eye on FDA<-
There are many aspects to the mobile health or mHealth field. The advantages and benefits of applying mobile technology to the health sector are countless, but one interesting aspect we have not talked about so far is clinical trials. The potential offered by these devices to keep doctors and patients connected is especially appealing to pharmaceutical companies that are conducting clinical trials; both parties are provided much more information in a much more accessible way.
There are cases where mobile technology is used in the recruitment of patients who are willing to participate in the trials, like in the case of Study Scavenger and these mobile solutions can give patients access to clinical studies that they would have hardly been able to consult otherwise. In addition to this, these apps –Healogica was one of the first trials, even though it is not available anymore– can also be used to power up a personalized and detailed follow-up by, among other things, giving every patient reminders on when to take the medication. But that is not all: It is possible, for example, to include gamification systematics to make the entire process more attractive to the patients involved in these clinical trials.
Of course it is not always possible to make the most of these resources, and before you start you should always take all factors into account, like the geographic location of the patients or special needs they may have, up to which point they are familiar with the technology and even logistics involved with sending special accessories that may be needed to conduct the follow up with the participants of the trial.
However, mobiles are once again becoming the perfect companions for these kinds of procedures especially in developing countries, where internet access in homes is not very common, but where mobile coverage –including data transmission– is very high. A recent report of the Fogarty International Center showed that “these same countries account for 80 percent of mobile subscriptions worldwide. More people now have access to a mobile phone than to clean water, electricity or a bank account.”
There is significant potential, as Paulo Machado confirmed, CEO of Health Innovation Partners, a consulting firm focussed on health issues. In his opinion mobile devices are furthermore able to reduce the cost and the time needed to conduct a clinical trial, achieving in both aspects to consume merely half the resources needed traditionally.
The same line of argument was sustained in a recent study by Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company which has taken one of the first steps in this direction and which even though it is not finished yet, sees it as a crucial step forward to apply this kind of technology to clinical trials. Craig Lipset, who is in charge of clinical innovation at this pharmaceutical company, explained how a first trial failed, due to a factor they had not taken into account sufficiently: the lack of participation. Even though social networks were able to attract the interest of potential patients, many of them did not end up subscribing to the program because they did not trust the online sources enough for this kind of procedures.
This first barrier is already being overcome by other pharmaceuticals that managed to gain more experience with these kinds of innovative programs, which no doubt will once more bring together two worlds that seem to be destined to join. The potential offered by combining health and mobile technology is too great to be discarded.