Could smartphones open a new world for medical research?

April 25, 2018

Smartphones are helping medical researchers gain insight and access to more health data.  Doctors say the abundant health data that can be gathered by smartphones produces better and more timely studies. When smartphones first began collecting health data, such as a user’s heart rate and steps walked, doctors were suspicious of any inherent medical value. Now, years later, doctors have helped change minds thanks to a series of pioneering medical studies demonstrating the efficacy of smartphone-based medical research, and 83Bar has followed suit.

83bar has long been integrating mobile communication strategies as part of our four-part process in patient activation, which includes: locating patients and creating awareness, educating eligible patients, navigating patients to the appropriate medical resource in their community, and finally, advocating for clinical trials and treatments through shared participant feedback.

Going forward, doctors believe we can glean insights into a participant’s health (and the health of the greater population) much faster than conventional studies, which often take a lot of time to analyze and then publish in scientific journals – sometimes years after the study has taken place. An added benefit is the ability for patients to review their own data, and see firsthand how lifestyle changes have an immediate and positive impact on their overall health.

There are currently a number of platforms on the market already actively being used. ResearchKit, released in 2015, helps researchers gather “robust and meaningful data” through a network of software applications intended to identify and make it easier to enroll patients in studies, taking “research out of the lab into the world.” A second, released in 2017 by Verily Life Sciences, is Study Watch – a wearable investigational device that collects user health data that is applied to a number of observational studies, including one for Parkinson’s progression. Knowledge gained is already being applied by researchers for drugmakers like GlaxoSmithKline and health tech startup firms like Sage Bionetworks.

Still, with all of the advancements made, there remains area for improvement. Smartphone-based research applications are still seeing a challenge with participant retention; something that the 83Bar system has been able to effectively manage. As part of our approach, we qualify patients and engage them throughout the process, thus maintaining recruitment and retention levels for research organizations and clinical trial researchers.