The Internet of Things is influencing nearly every aspect of our lives. Everything from our home appliances to traffic signals to our workplaces is connected to the Internet, and the network only continues to expand. It seems that no industry is left untouched by the IoT, and that includes healthcare.
In fact, some have even argued that healthcare is perhaps the best place for IoT applications. Here, connected devices have the potential to increase access to providers, improve the quality of care thanks to more accurate patient information, and allow patients to take more control over their overall health. Not to mention, the IoT is changing the process of clinical trials, making them more efficient and cost-effective, and speeding up the time it takes to research new treatments.
The current state of clinical trials
At any given moment, there are more than 20,000 clinical trials underway in the United States alone, including both observational trials (those that simply monitor participants in specific areas to determine trends and draw conclusions) and interventional (those that involve a specific drug or treatment). The typical clinical trial costs an average of $30 to 40 million dollars for the first three phases of research, and then another $30 to 40 million for the post-approval phase. However, a significant number of trials – by some estimates, as many as half – never make it past phase three.
The high failure rates of clinical trials are due to a number of factors, ranging from a lack of participation to poor results in the early stages of the research. This has many researchers looking for a better way to conduct clinical trials, including implementing more eCOA technology solutions to improve data, reduce costs, and increase participation rates. To further improve the success rates of trials, researchers are also looking to the IoT.
Improved recruitment, management, and reporting
The IoT has a number of potential applications for clinical research, all of which have the potential to save money and time.
One of the tools being used to recruit patients for clinical trials, which is often the biggest challenge of any study, is big data. By analyzing big data, study recruiters can target the most appropriate patients more accurately. Study recruiters are beginning to see the value in strategies like search engine marketing and social media adverting to recruit subjects – and those tactics rely heavily on online behavioral profiles. The IoT is constantly collecting data about individuals – data that allows recruiters to better pinpoint the patients that are best suited for a specific trial and target advertising and other recruitment tactics specifically to those individuals.
One of the most common reasons patients do not participate in clinical trials, or drop out of studies before they are complete, is that it can be cumbersome to fulfill the obligations of being a part of the study. Keeping diaries, filling in surveys, and visiting physicians are often part of a study, and failure to follow the study protocol in any of these areas can skew the results.
The IoT has the potential to solve these problems. Researchers are now experimenting with using connected devices, such as wearables and ingestible sensors, as a means to easily collect study data without inconveniencing the subject. This not only has the potential to increase retention, but also improve the accuracy of the data collected. Instead of relying on patients to record their own data, which isn’t always accurate, researchers can collect data at any time. Patient safety is also enhanced by IoT devices, since researchers can stop or change interventions at the first sign of potential harm, and patients have the peace of mind of knowing that they are being constantly monitored.
Rather than endure the time and expense (not to mention the potential errors) of manually inputting data, the IoT allows for that data to be collected and analyzed automatically.
With properly connected and managed devices, clinical trials stand to benefit greatly from the IoT. While there are still questions to consider about patient privacy and the security of devices and networks, not to mention barriers to overcome in terms of ensuring equal access to the technology necessary for this type of research, there is no question that the IoT is already changing clinical research and has the potential to completely transform the entire process.