mHealth is providing researchers with increased opportunities for data collection, patient engagement, and trial recruitment.
Mobile health, or mHealth, has been slow to develop, but its use in clinical trials is steadily growing. In a 2017 study, 94% of companies surveyed said they are looking to increase their use of mHealth in the future, and 55% of North American companies report that they are “very likely” to increase their use of mobile technology in the next two years.
As mHealth makes its way into clinical trials, it is enabling researchers to build richer data sets, boost study enrollment, and communicate more efficiently with patients. These advancements offer opportunities to build deeper insights and develop more personalized care. Here’s how mHealth is already impacting clinical trials, and what CROs and sponsors can expect from mobile technology in the coming years.
Expanding Research Capabilities
Mobile applications like iPhone or Android apps and wearable devices like Fitbit allow researchers to collect valuable data from patients in real time. They can examine how lifestyle, environment, and biology affect long-term health with greater accuracy. This comprehensive patient information could inform preventative medicine and help expedite the discovery of new cures.
One example of mHealth data collection in action is the National Institute of Health’s All of Us initiative. This program intends to gather data through the next 10 to 40 years for over 1 million Americans. Participants privately share data through health surveys, physical measurements, and electronic health records (EHRs), which is then examined by researchers. The goal is to speed up breakthroughs in research and improve healthcare for all Americans. This large-scale undertaking is likely to unlock new capabilities in mobile technology and set new standards for nationwide studies.
Increasing Patient Engagement
New technologies like sensors, patient portals, and mHealth apps offer increased convenience and accessibility for patients. Trial participants can use their devices to request prescription refills, schedule appointments, and log health information. This technology also opens up new channels of communication between researchers and patients. Participants can get reminders about appointment times and when to take their medication. They can also access educational information about their treatment and submit any questions they may have.
mHealth also offers the potential to conduct remote clinical trials. As 70% of potential patients in the U.S. live two hours or more from the nearest trial site, remote monitoring could help build a more diverse group of patients. The convenience and unobtrusive nature of remote trials would likely boost enrollment and minimize dropout rates as well.
Building Patient Trust
Mobile technology helps clinical trials enforce data security, which helps researchers build patient trust. Strong privacy and security systems like data encryption and authentication mechanisms for EHRs make patients feel that their data is safe. If patients are confident that their information will be keep private, they will be more likely to share it in clinical trials.
As mHealth has fostered new modes of communication, it can help researchers solicit informed consent from patients. Many clinical trials now ask for electronic informed consent and provide access to study risks and benefits online. This encourages patients to interact more extensively with the information than when it is presented to them as a paper copy.
Advancing Trial Recruitment
In addition to offering new data collection models and convenient applications, mHealth is one of the most effective ways to recruit new patients. Researchers can use EHRs or AI-driven technologies to identify potential participants who may be interested in and qualify for their studies. This allows for quicker patient screening and enrollment, helping cut down on time and expenses.
Clinical trials can also make use of digital advertising platforms like Facebook and Google to reach out to potential patients. Facebook advertising is an effective tool for targeting members of communities or support groups for particular health conditions. These users may not be aware that they can participate in a clinical trial, but would be interested in joining a study if presented with the opportunity.
Search advertising, on the other hand, is used to target patients who are actively looking for treatment options. Whether patients are typing their inquiries into search engines or asking their voice assistants, search advertising allows marketers to use particular keywords or phrases to answer patients’ questions. It’s important to make sure that your landing pages are mobile-optimized and easy to use so that visitors will continue to the next step of the enrollment process.
Whether through fast and efficient data collection or real-time communication tools, mHealth is already changing the landscape of clinical trials. As it becomes more widespread, mobile technology is likely to lead to incredible breakthroughs and an increased emphasis on personalized patient care.