An estimated 325 million people use connected wearable devices, according to IMARC. The global market for medical wearable devices is slated to reach $12.1 billion by 2021 indicates Markets&Markets. A quick check of clinicaltrials.gov that hosts a global database of clinical trials, will provide around 200 trials based on wearable devices or wearable technology. This shows that the technological advancements in connected devices have a key role to play in clinical trials. Some of these clinical studies focus on testing the feasibility of wearables to generate insights such as diagnosing sleep apnea through a fitness band, detecting atrial fibrillation through smart watches etc.
A study conducted by Trialtrove in April 2018 offers a glimpse of wearables that have been leveraged for several drug interventional trials. The study indicates that there has been a rise in such clinical trials from 12 in 2008 to 32 in 2017. This rise could be attributed to an increase in types of diseases, wearables, and trial sponsors. The diseases for which clinical trials were conducted, with reliance on mobile devices or wearables, include Asthma, Insomnia, Smoking cessation, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc. While monitoring sleep quality and physical activity, the devices also help track drug adherence, drug delivery, postural stability etc. These devices enable patients to track and share their own health data, thereby making them collaborators during clinical trials.
Rob Scott of Abbvie believes that technology will not just be a part of clinical development process but become a key component in providing researchers with better access to patients. Digital technologies facilitate real-time access to patients’ health metrics, thus providing an insight into how patients are doing in the trial. The benefits of using wearables for clinical trials include access to real-time data saving time and costs, researchers responding pretty quickly to adverse events, baseline patient data collected over extended periods offers patterns enabling better treatment. Data from wearables, when combined with genomics, possesses the ability to develop a comprehensive overview of a patient’s health.
Nevertheless, while wearable medical devices offer benefits, there are several challenges with several devices promising to enhance health and wellness but with no significant evidence to backup their promise. Reliability of devices that are not approved by regulators is one such challenges. And then there is the fact that access to data collected by wearables may vary by device. Consumer grade devices are user-friendly and process data through algorithms that helps derive insights. Medical grade devices on the other hand are not user-friendly and provide raw data, which is helpful for researchers in their studies. Over the last couple of years, companies have moved from discussions to execution of deploying digital technologies while designing clinical trials to be more data-driven.
As we look into the future, clinical trials will become less labor-intensive, what with connected devices enabling researchers to gather data without manual entry. Life sciences and healthcare companies need to work in tandem with technology companies to bring out devices that enable seamless and effective data collection for trials. The cover story of this issue talks about how wearables are becoming game changers in the clinical trials segment.