As a result of technical evolution, patients with chronic diseases will be able to improve their disease management. New digital health solutions and related apps will provide new opportunities for patients and healthcare professionals.
The life science industry has witnessed an acceleration in applied technologies, such as the Internet of Things, wireless connectivity, cloud computing and AI. In combination, these advancements have the potential to transform healthcare processes. Recent developments in digital health technology, such as connected drug delivery devices and dedicated disease management software, can give patients and healthcare professionals an improved overview of treatment-related data and improve the ability to adjust and control treatment.
”The development in technology and the opportunity to build an ecosystem that can help structure a patient’s health-related data is an important step towards individualised treatment and medicine. The technology can help the patient take the right medicine and dosage at the right time. Over time, I expect further additions to the ecosystem that will allow the patients to understand the impact of additional factors such as nutrition, sleep and exercise in a structured way.” says Søren Knudsen, Head of Nordics and a healthcare expert at PA Consulting.
Mobile applications and software that act as medical devices – Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) – can become an integrated part of the patient’s daily life. In combination, and subject to patient consent, these products can potentially facilitate data collection across patient groups with the view to increase understanding of diseases, treatments and patient behaviour. This insight can be used to improve treatment options and guidance to patients.
”Mobile applications can help patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, to manage their treatment and take preventive actions by keeping track of, for example, nutrition, sleep and exercise. In this connection, a key enabler of developing good digital solutions is the willingness of patients to share data and of solution providers to use data responsibly to the benefit of the patients. This requires that the authorities ensure legal and regulatory governance both support the development in this space and safeguard patients’ interests,” Søren Knudsen says.
Soon, medical systems may be connected by integrating sensors in the drug delivery devices that send data to an application and communicate with drug and user platforms.
“Over time, the platform should become the focal point that combines data from several inputs. In the case of diabetes, you could combine data on blood sugar and medicine dosage with nutrition, exercise and sleep. It's about creating a system that is coherent and easy to manage, so you as a patient can monitor your treatment and lifestyle in a broader sense.
“Longer term, one can create a huge data imprint where a coalition can be formed to analyse data across groups of patients to better understand, for example, nutrition implications,” Søren says.
A report from The Danish Diabetes Association shows that 66 per cent of the 300,000 Danish diabetic patients fear diabetic shock caused by an overuse of insulin. And it is still difficult for patients with a chronic disease to maintain the right dose.
“It is my understanding that patients with diabetes may have lower quality of life because the treatment is hard to manage and the potential side effects of not being in control are severe. If the digital solutions can help patients get in better control and understand the impact of their lifestyle choices better, it will be a help to patients and their families that are often closely involved in the daily disease management,” Søren explains.
The new digital solutions can facilitate nudging techniques and, thereby, increase treatment adherence with great benefits for individual patients, their relatives and society at large as chronic diseases have a huge impact, including high financial costs.
“With the expected future offering of many competing SaMD products and other healthcare and lifestyle apps, a challenge for patients will be to choose which products to trust and whom to share their personal treatment and health data with. The life sciences companies have a big responsibility, but it is also important that authorities and patient organisations look across the ecosystem to ensure the right balance,” Søren says.
There is no doubt that this will be an interesting market to follow in the coming years. Currently, the trend is new platforms being launched by the largest companies in the world gathering immense data sets. At the same time, small businesses are launching apps and new patient support systems almost weekly. The ecosystem will emerge as the result of the combination of these trends.