Health IT

Mobile health tools could help life sciences industry pare down clinical trial costs

As pharmaceutical companies look for ways to cut the massive cost of drug development, the exact amount of which is frequently debated, mobile health tools are becoming an attractive option. The biggest reason? Most people have one — 91 percent of Americans have a cell phone and 56 percent own a smartphone. The use of […]

As pharmaceutical companies look for ways to cut the massive cost of drug development, the exact amount of which is frequently debated, mobile health tools are becoming an attractive option. The biggest reason? Most people have one — 91 percent of Americans have a cell phone and 56 percent own a smartphone. The use of the humble text message to initiate clinical trial screening, send reminders, and get feedback on the trial is one of the approaches Omniscience Mobile is taking.

Although contract research organizations such as Quintiles tend to be its main market channel, it also works with Pfizer and Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda, among other companies. Its sweet spot is late-stage trials which tend to be larger and geographically diverse.

In an interview at the Mobile Health Summit this week, Omniscience CEO Jeff Lee said people who respond to a clinical trial recruitment ad on TV or online quickly lose interest when they’re faced with a long application. But if they just have to provide a mobile number, they can receive an initial set of text-messaged questions. Responses can trigger a deeper discussion with a contracted call center rep.

Another service it provides are text-message reminders to encourage people to stick to the medication regimen of the trial, for scheduled appointments and to do diary entries to reflect how they are feeling on the drug. The platform also includes a diary component for mobile phones. Although the system is automated, responses can trigger a two-way dialogue with the study coordinator.

“It’s not about compliance so much as making you feel connected to the study,” said Lee.

Exco InTouch is another company that’s producing clinical trial tools using mobile phones. In addition to patient engagement, it has focused on electronic data-capture tools as a way to capture data from home monitoring devices, such as blood pressure monitors and spirometers, and integrate it into an eDiary with Bluetooth.

This is a huge area of interest for enabling the life sciences industry to monitor clinical trial participants’ vital signs. Exco is one of the companies working with the Critical Path Institute to ensure that clinical outcome assessment devices produce accurate patient-reported outcomes data. This could help pave the way for more widespread use of mobile tools in clinical trials. Exco co-founder and CEO Tim Davis talked about its work in a panel on patient-centric and outcomes-based models for healthcare at the mHealth Summit this week.