Personalized Healthcare: Sensors and digital services for tailored, 24/7 treatment

A key value driver from digital technology in any industry is the ability to customize interactions with stakeholders. In pharmaceuticals, this value will be largely realized by using sensors and digital services to provide customized care around the clock. 

Within five to seven years, more than just drugs will create value through a significant proportion of the pharmaceutical portfolio. Many drugs will be part of a digital ecosystem that constantly monitors the condition of a patient and provides patient and other stakeholders with feedback. This ecosystem will help improve health outcomes by tailoring therapy to the clinical and lifestyle needs of a patient and enabling remote monitoring of a patient’s condition and treatment adherence by health professionals. A plethora of wireless sensors is already on the market to measure the biophysical signals of a patient. Combining these with other patient data as they go about their daily lives — nutritional information gathered through a smart refrigerator, for example, or smart gym weight exercise information — will enable real-time alerts to be issued to caregivers and physicians when intervention is needed.

For example, a care plan for a Parkinson’s patient could include a drug regimen with “chip on a pill” technology to monitor drug taking along with a smartwatch that monitors the patient’s condition, sends him or her reminders to adhere to the prescribed treatment, and sends compliance reports and health status reports from the neurologist. The neurologist can then train patients on changes in lifestyle or even remotely tailor therapy. Such digitally enabled approaches to patient care are likely to improve outcomes to the extent that they can become a reimbursement condition, especially for expensive speciality medicines.

Several companies already offer products and services that are integrated. WellDoc, for example, launched BlueStar, the first FDA-approved mobile app for type 2 diabetes management, while AliveCor built an electrocardiogram based on a smartphone. Patients take their own readings, which can be checked without the cost and delay of seeing a specialist by a remote expert. Many more products of this kind have been recently approved or are being developed.

Naturally, the medication itself will still be important. But it will be more personalized, focusing more precisely than before on each patient’s needs. Advanced data analytics that mines electronic medical records, including diagnostic results, history of medication, and data on genomics, proteomics, and gene expression, will help identify optimal therapies and predict how individual patients respond to treatment.

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