Exposing Patients to the Bigger Mobile and Digital Health Picture

February 1, 2015
Judith Teall

Applied Clinical Trials

Volume 24, Issue 2

The World Health Report 2013 argues that universal health coverage cannot be achieved without the evidence from scientific research, and in order to better manage healthcare, clinical research needs to keep up-to-date and advance in line with society in general.

The World Health Report 2013 argues that universal health coverage cannot be achieved without the evidence from scientific research, and in order to better manage healthcare, clinical research needs to keep up-to-date and advance in line with society in general. Without clinical research, global health would falter and decline, but perhaps the importance of this relationship is not well recognized.


Judith Teall

Two-way movement of information is critical and underpins both clinical research and healthcare. Better engagement leads to more informed and empowered patients, and ultimately improves patient outcomes. An opportunity, therefore, exists to truly embrace the mobile and digital revolution, and utilize its full potential in 21st century clinical trials.

As insufficient people are aware of clinical trials, could there be a greater commitment to engage people about clinical research-prior to any medical need arising? The science curriculums in our basic education systems don't adequately introduce this critical topic. Hence, we're missing out on the starting point in the healthcare communications chain-an opportunity to influence new ways of thinking, and establish a new generation of trial participants and future influencers.

Complicated medical language has long prevented easy access to healthcare, engendering an aura of "respect" and "reverence" to physicians. However, patients are becoming increasingly confident in searching online and asking questions-mobile and digital technology is enabling more digestible content (making medicine less exclusive, and healthcare more accessible for the masses).

The medical community is still learning to routinely embrace mobile and digital technology, although healthcare professionals (HCPs) are increasingly accessible through online "virtual" consulting. This may create new opportunities for clinical research awareness.

Today's youth has grown up in an information-loaded, technology-rich world, with data instantaneously accessible through the portable medium of their (smart) mobile phone. But what do patients really understand about mobile and digital capabilities in healthcare? Does the average person know that scale data can be collected via mobile, and the results viewed in real time by the HCP? Or that asthma sufferers can blow into a Bluetooth (to mobile) paired spirometry device, to help track their condition? I suspect that the public are largely unaware of how, where, and why mobile and digital technology is being used in clinical research and healthcare management, and what options are available already.

If popularized sufficiently through technology, could we anticipate greater understanding of clinical research, and generally improved healthcare management? With decreasing numbers of medically trained doctors, and a seemingly crisis-level escalation in some countries of chronic diseases, when it comes to health management, we need to embed a greater sense of ownership in everyone. We need to help ourselves, and that's where "mHealth" can put control into the patient's hands (e.g., digital access to public health campaigns, online interactive support programs, or mobile data collection for trials).

Just how far the mobile and digital health revolution can take us is unclear. It could reveal previously unknown facts through sheer data volume, or we may find that clinical research is changed through greater honesty, convenience, or control between HCPs and patients. Endless possibilities emerge. Imagine if all chronic sufferers were to give a health status on a given "World Mobile Health Day"; how powerful that "snapshot" would be.

Clinical research is just a building block in health management. But if we could "mobilize," educate, and engage everyone, then the bigger picture would be clear. Let's tell the patients.

Judith Teall Director of Clinical Excellence, Exco InTouch E-mail: info@excointouch.com

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