mHealth monitoring has been shown to improve patient adherence, could it be the key the industry has been looking for?
Two recent new stories, when considered together, make for an interesting proposition for pharma. Firstly, just before the FDA approved the first diet drug in more than a decade, came the release of new recommendations for weight loss from a federal panel of independent experts. These recommendations did not include drugs, in part because, according to David Grossman, the Seattle pediatrician who led the US Preventive Services Task Force panel that issued the updated recommendations, ‘clinical trials [for weight-loss drugs] just show short-term outcomes’. There is a concern that there is little evidence for what happens when / if the patient stops taking the drug.
Also making the pages recently was a good news story about mHealth and hospital readmissions. Senata Healthcare, in Chesapeake, Va., found, as an unexpected benefit of their mHealth programme – originally introduced in order to supplement staffing – that hospital readmissions fell significantly. The figures speak for themselves: there is a 15% readmission rate within 30 days for their general patient population. For monitored patients, that falls to 2%, and less than 1% for those with congestive heart failure. By any standard, that is a success, and one that has been replicated elsewhere.
So what have these two stories got to do with each other? Simply put, that mHealth monitoring has been proven to work – and the results have shown that it is particularly effective in helping patients to make good lifestyle choices. Feeling that there is a constant monitoring and reporting system, makes patients more likely to eat healthily, do exercise, and take their meds. Pretty basic when you think about it – who wouldn’t respond like that to someone looking over your shoulder?
So this is a way for pharma to answer concerns about the long-term effectiveness of diet pills. Investing in mHealth as a supplement to such drugs could help to ensure that patients adopt and maintain the medication and dietary regimen that will be necessary for their long-term success. And the long-term success of drugs is a positive outcome for both patients and pharma. We all know about the problems in the transfer from the perfect world of clinical trials and the highly imperfect real world. mHealth provides a solution to this.
These conclusions are particularly timely in the context of a few more stories doing the rounds, the first being that the FDA looks likely to start imposing regulation on the app market. There have been some grumbles about this from developers, as you might expect – the FDA is not exactly known for its super-fast approval process, and of course this perceived clunkiness doesn’t exactly match up to online timelines. But on the other hand, one of the problems that apps face is the ability to overcome a public sceptical about the various health claims of the thousands and rising of medical apps on the market. FDA approval could help to separate the wheat from the chaff, meaning that the apps that work get the recognition they deserve and are able to reach the patients that they could benefit. And right on schedule comes Happtique’s mRx™ trial, the first programme that will enable doctors to prescribe mHealth apps to patients and track their usage, a platform that can only help to elevate mHealth into its proper place, as a crucial tool for the medical profession.
So see this as a call to arms for the pharma industry. Drugs are only as good as the patient who takes them – or in the ‘real world’, often doesn’t take them. It is without a doubt in the pharmaceutical industry’s interest that the recently approved weight-loss drugs are seen to work long-term. This is a way to make sure that they are.
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