The digital tools revolutionising diagnosis and treatment
The Internet of Things is revolutionising many industries, driving innovation, democratising data and outdating previous processes. Within healthcare, connected devices are enabling advanced patient monitoring, remote diagnosis and home-based treatment options. Some types of medical analysis can even be offered via a patient’s own smart device without the need for additional equipment.
At Recipe, we monitor the product launches that are enabling new experiences for patients and medical professionals. We analyse how science and technology intersect with our evolving human needs to shape what is feasible and expected for future healthcare solutions. We have identified some emerging product categories within the healthcare landscape which are changing our understanding of how we access diagnosis, treatment and expert opinions.
Small, unobtrusive and painless, ingestible sensors offer a convenient way to monitor patient behaviour without constant surveillance. The Proteus sensor is the size of a grain of rice and taken with every dose of medication. It communicates with a torso-worn patch to log and indicate whether a patient has taken their medication, providing automatic records and remote monitoring, which is especially useful for treating vulnerable patients.
The patch also records activity and biometric data to provide additional information for patients and HCPs alike, enabling a holistic view of health and habits, leading to more engaged patients, optimised therapies and improved outcomes.
This relatively simple system is laying the foundations for more advanced ingestible sensors - a market which is expected to reach USD 1.99 billion by 2024. As the technology develops, more affordable patient-focused sensors could detect and monitor diseases from inside the body. In some industries, ingestible bioelectronic devices are currently being investigated as circadian rhythm triggers and gastrointestinal illness prevention methods.
In the future, what else will ingestible sensors be able to monitor, track or even diagnose? What potential is there to combine them with Rx medication and other therapies for optimised healthcare treatment?
Physical movement trackers
The technology we hold in our hands and have our homes becomes increasingly advanced year-on-year. Healthcare services are now utilizing the features built into our personal smart devices to enable treatments which could usually only be conducted in a clinical setting or by a medical professional.
Kaia utilizes the high-resolution cameras readily available on smart phones and tablets to monitor visual biomarkers which can assist with home-based therapies for the treatment of chronic pain, Musculoskeletal conditions and COPD. Its software tracks a patient’s movement with accuracy, suggesting improvements and ensuring precise movements to maintain progress during remote sessions and between appointments.
Through its platforms, patients can access treatment from their own homes, employers can contribute to the health of their employees (and save money long-term) and healthcare providers benefit from better data to inform treatment plans and potential clinical trial inclusion.
What else could high-resolution cameras be used to track? Can visual monitoring be used to assess optimum delivery angles for medication delivery devices, action co-ordination for MDIs or injection device depth?
As the sensors and algorithms available through our smart devices evolve, what else will we be able to diagnose and monitor in our own homes?
It is increasingly clear that certain treatments and types of treatment can be successful for some people, and not for others. One size definitely does not fit all. So rather than pursuing just one approach, patients and providers are looking to blended and layered treatments which utilize different techniques simultaneously to achieve greater treatment success.
Offerings such as Flow Neuroscience combine brain stimulation (through a device) with targeted behavioural therapy (through an app) to treat depression in the patient’s own home. As Flow states, there is no ‘one’ treatment for depression; a combined, layered approach which uses multiple scientific theories has a better chance of success.
The programme also encourages users to set aside regular 30-minute sessions of dedicated time to improve their mental health and wellbeing, a habit-forming behaviour which itself layers in to aid the treatment.
It’s interesting to think about what other multi-pronged approaches can be taken to alleviate common healthcare conditions. In the case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) the NHS lists treatment options ranging from anti-depressants, to CBT, to light therapy and clinical studies are beginning to measure the effects of combined rather than isolated treatments.
In what other ways can prescription medicine, holistic therapies and sensory experiences combine to create new, optimised treatments? As the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant reduction in face-to-face contact, how can these layered treatment options be delivered by the patient, in their own home?
AI health assessments
For a while now, patients have been ‘Google-ing’ their symptoms in a quest for quick answers to their medical questions. Many HCPs proclaim this as the very worst thing a patient can do. Not only is the information often inaccurate and unreliable, but search result self-diagnosis can cause patients to misjudge the seriousness of their conditions and make decisions themselves without consulting a professional.
AI-enabled symptom checkers are changing this dynamic. Specialist platforms like Ada are built with intelligent algorithms and rigorous medical databases, with additional factors like disease-likelihood layering in at certain times of the year and for certain locations.
Not only do these services drastically improve the quality of information patients receive, through their UX/UI design they remove a number of the issues and inconveniences patients have with conventional in-person health assessments. Ada’s marketing communications convey the immediacy and practicality of app-based diagnosis, but also the feelings of safety it provides; a sense of reassurance, the ability to quell anxieties and a confidence that Ada ‘won’t judge me’ like a person might.
It is clear that digital healthcare apps will become more prevalent and powerful over time. What is interesting to consider is how a patient’s relationship with an app will and should differ from that which they have with a human HCP. Where can the two formats of health assessment work together, sharing the meaning of ‘expert opinion’? Will AI health assistants ever be empathetic enough to replace human healthcare professionals?