The Internet of (Useful) Things
There was a time not too long ago when the digital world actually seemed to stagnate. After the smart phone and tablet came into market, nothing truly innovative seemed to be on the horizon. The future looked predictable, and that bored me. Then advancements within cloud computing and micro-electro-mechanical systems brought new life to the Internet of Things (IoT). I was excited again about the possibilities. I could envision a future where technology could make a very big impact on our society—much like smart devices did before. For those of you who are unfamiliar or need a refresher on what the Internet of Things means, it refers to physical objects or “things” built with a cloud computing network of data-collecting sensors. These sensors can monitor just about anything within the physical world, from industrial machinery to your heartbeat. Actuators are then used to control a machine or system based on the data provided from the sensors. A real-world example is Nest, acquired by Google in 2014. Nest senses temperature within your home while the actuator controls the thermostat. This is just one example of how IoT is transforming your abode into a smart home of the future, which Google, Apple, and Amazon are all rushing to own.
How IoT Will Impact Healthcare
The shift to pay-per-performance in healthcare has put a greater focus on leveraging smarter medical technology. With quality care responsible for reimbursement, the need to diagnose, treat, and monitor patient health more precisely is greater than ever. Now, you have physicians, health systems, and payers aligning toward a common goal of improving patient outcomes while reducing health costs. Information management is critical to achieving this goal. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 has forced electronic health record adoption and the potential to collect “big data” within healthcare for meaningful use. The data—all the health records of patients stored in one repository—allow physicians to better manage groups of patients across different clinical measures. Being able to identify patients who are at risk of or are missing recommended tests or treatments is one practical example. The next opportunity to expand on big data within healthcare will be from IoT. Just think of all the remote sensors that can be put to use in a clinical setting.
One example is a wireless network of wearable devices called Medical Body Area Network (MBAN) that conceivably could allow for remote monitoring of patients by physicians.
Another great example of IoT is from Proteus Digital Health which recently received FDA clearance for an adherence claim for its wearable and ingestible sensor device.
By combining these examples with other smart technology, you can start to see a lot of ways IoT can be implemented into our lives. Here’s another scenario I crafted with the help of Amazon’s Echo.
IoT Scenario: Remote Caregiving
Using my father as an example, I can conceive of a scenario where I’m able to keep a close watch on his health and well-being from 100 miles away. In this scenario, I walk into my kitchen and I ask Alexa (Amazon Echo’s artificial intelligence) if my dad is home. It replies that he is home and appears to be watching another episode of “How It’s Made” on the Science Channel. I ask if he took his medication today. Alexa responds yes, based on the ingestible pills and monitor he is wearing. It goes on to tell me that his heart rate is good and that he exercised for 30 minutes on the treadmill today. I check the app on my phone, which shows me his workout stats (how far he walked, his heart rate, etc.). It also includes his responses to periodic pain scale surveys asked by Alexa. I am able to see that his pain is moderate, and I remember that his knee might be inflamed due to the weather. I tell Alexa to give my dad a message. At his house, his Alexa asks if he would like to hear from me. He agrees and is sent a short message from me, telling him not to forget his doctor’s appointment tomorrow. He responds, “How could I forget?” considering that he is reminded constantly by Alexa through all of his devices. Soon after, I pull up his health records on my phone, including his medication compliance, exercise stats, pain surveys, and other vitals. I review and authorize to have them sent to his physician. In this future scenario, the data triggers an auto-call from his physician’s office, reminding him to get labs drawn in the morning before visiting his doctor. This scenario might sound years away, but in reality it could happen today if all these systems were capable of talking to one another. To give you an understanding of just how close we are, it is projected that there will be over 25 billion connected things and $1.7 trillion spent on IoT by 2020.
IoT and Pharma
As pharma companies look for a competitive edge with Pill Plus opportunities, IoT can play a major role in improving programs and, ultimately, patient outcomes. The key will be cultivating ideas much earlier in the product life cycle and finding ways to incorporate them as a valuable asset within clinical trials. Apple’s ResearchKit aims to improve the speed and scale of medical research and clinical trials. Integrating wearable IoT devices and other monitoring tech is expected to have a profound impact on the way market research is conducted. Organizations are already adapting and implementing studies. GSK and Purdue Pharma have publicly announced in 2015 that they will be using ResearchKit for clinical trials. As pharma continues to demonstrate value beyond efficacy, smart devices will need to be considered as add-on benefits that can drive better outcomes for patients. The horizon looks bright for pulling together a connected world of objects that might just be capable of providing value and improved health outcomes for us all.
When it comes to providing digital strategy, Nick Bartolomeo has experience ranging from an all-encompassing brand diagnostic to analysis on the success of multichannel campaigns. As a digital strategist at our Villanova location, he has worked with large brands to develop measurement approaches that guide campaign investments for optimal performance. Nick has extensive pharma marketing experience, offering strategic planning and campaign development all the way through to postdeployment analysis across a variety of platforms including paid search, website, SEO, email, display media and custom programs.