As healthcare extends its ‘institutional’ role and becomes more personal and mobile, patient-centricity is becoming a significant strategic focus for healthcare stakeholders. The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centricity as a means of providing care that is transparent, respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values, ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions. In other words, being truly patient-centric means that healthcare decisions are shared between patient and clinician.
More than any other aspect of drug development, patients are at the centre of clinical trials. Research has demonstrated that putting the patient at the heart of a clinical study by engaging them throughout the process, leads to greater compliance of patients' at-home medical care and results in more successful studies for all involved.
Driving greater patient engagement empowers the patient to take an active role in the decisions made about their own healthcare and the frequency of self-management behaviors increases. This not only drives improved patient participation in a clinical study, but also lowers the burden on the site. This is particularly critical in the clinical trial context because patient engagement is synonymous with compliance, which is vital to the progression of the trial.
mHealth and patient-centricity
The healthcare industry is extending its role from treatment to prevention, to remote/real-time patient monitoring and to health wellbeing via fitness and weight management. Staying more connected throughout the healthcare supply chain is another way of becoming more patient-centric; ‘connected health’ is the current buzzword used to described how healthcare is connecting in the digital health industry.
Mobile health (mHealth) is one of the many elements that plays a role in supporting efforts to be more patient-centric by engaging the patients with digital technology tools. With patients willing to share data, there are opportunities to better understand how internal or external conditions impact everyday life and develop solutions that work.
Additionally, empirical evidence is starting to emerge to support the use of gamification for behaviour change. Gamification is a broad umbrella term used to encompass the process of using game elements and digital game design techniques to motivate and engage people in non-game contexts. Opportunities now exist to deliver behaviour change interventions through game platforms on new smartphone devices.
Wearable technology and patient-centricity
Wearable devices and mobile health apps have made health data collection convenient, as they integrate with the patient’s daily activities. The immense amount of data generated, when crunched and analysed properly, can play a crucial role in medical advancement. These devices are helping patients and caregivers measure many indicators, which a clinician can then use to generate feedback based on a patient’s input.
This marks an interesting change in clinical research, where the patients are direct suppliers of data beyond the information drawn from their medical records. Medical researchers must combine both sources of information to generate more revealing results to both help the experience of the patient and advance the study.
Integrating patient-centricity is about listening to the experiences of the patient and internalizing them throughout the clinical study to create a better professional medical service, better engagement and adherence, and better relationships with the patient that last.
The tools of digital technology will help support this effort. Healthcare organisations must work more on improving patient engagement by leveraging mHealth and developing strategies that meet patients’ expectations of more patient-centric trials. The industry must implement a systematic process to validate mHealth solutions in a clinical setting and realise credible studies that evaluate their effectiveness in placing the patient at the heart of clinical trials.
Sarah Iqbal is a research scientist with a background in biopharmaceuticals and business entrepreneurship. She is currently the Head of Digital Life Sciences at Biotaware Ltd, a connected health company with expertise in mobile app design and development, wearables integration and cloud server tech in clinical trials and consumer well-being industry.