There is an underlying ecosystem that is working to connect everything we do across all industries with the goal of providing easy and seamless access to information and suggestions that affect our everyday decisions. This is the internet of things. Currently, the IoT providers we use every day — Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon — are delivering technologies for practically every need. They are making the dream of a fully connected world a reality, and yet, each of these IoT providers continues to fine-tune their individual ecosystem for their own needs, seemingly at odds with an integrated IoT agenda. To be truly successful in enterprise IoT, we have to embrace a standardized and connected ecosystem. Nowhere is this more important than in healthcare, where IoT must be fully connected without breakdowns, such as privacy breaches.
Healthcare is struggling to reconcile the challenges of collecting data from numerous sources (global health data, prescription data and payer data) and connecting these disparate data points to get actionable insights. Data is still the gold we seek, but health information is scattered and siloed — often due to data security — with healthcare providers, payers and manufacturers each viewing a different version of the truth. We can overcome this challenge to benefit patients, physicians, payers and drug developers if the healthcare industry can produce greater and safer interconnectivity in a single ecosystem. Throughout the drug lifecycle and the patient journey, a connected healthcare ecosystem could be the answer life sciences companies are seeking to demonstrate value from treatment outcomes.
Here are three critical value drivers for successful healthcare IoT.
1. Accelerating drug development and access to new treatments
If the vast amount of data that is generated by patients is truly connected via an ecosystem, the future pathway of research and development can be altered for the better. Real-world evidence (RWE) is already championed for its ability to go beyond data captured in a controlled clinical trial environment to data captured in real-world scenarios, which can then inform future trial design. In fact, we are already seeing how RWE can impact access to treatments via FDA regulatory decision-making, where RWE has been used to determine the risks and benefits of novel medicines in some FDA approvals of new or follow-on therapies.
2. Improving patient outcomes
For the first time, physicians will have a complete picture of their patients’ health through an ecosystem that uses diverse connected devices. In real time, healthcare practitioners can now monitor a patient’s health, activity levels and reaction to treatments. For example, if a patient with diabetes suffers a hypoglycemic episode, that data is fed directly back to the physician or specialist in real time for immediate action. And, according to Apple’s recent announcement, patients will soon be able to access their own medical records right on their phone.
This expands a physicians’ holistic view of the patient with data that monitors sleep patterns, weather conditions, dietary information and any other factors that might impact outcomes. All of these indicators have a cumulative impact on the outcome previously relied on from standard medical interventions. In short, for the first time, the healthcare provider will have a better shot at optimizing treatments based on the surrounding environment for better outcomes.
3. Supporting patient adherence
Wearables are no longer a luxury; they are a part of everyday life. Life sciences companies have taken notice and today are looking for more viable and long-term applications for such devices and platforms to advance adherence rates.
In another example of where technology has merged with health, manufacturers are working toward integrating elements of gamification in health-related devices to enhance behavioral rewards mechanisms that encourage patients to stay on their medicine. The underlying principles of gamification are designed to promote positive action and reinforcement for the patient. This could be as simple as adding a reward system to a medical app, where patients earn points or badges for taking their medication at the correct times of day. The ability to use this data and analyze behavior patterns for continual improvement will continue to advance improved outcomes.
In closing, I go back to my original argument: Is healthcare IoT necessary? The answer is yes, as the benefits outweigh the risks. But first, we must continue to lay the groundwork and address the silos we are accustomed to working within. By applying technology and expertise from multiple sectors, we will be rewarded with a more cost-effective, outcomes-based healthcare system that benefits every stakeholder in the value chain.
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