MedCity Influencers, Consumer / Employer

Why Consumers Should Care About Biomarkers — And How Technology Developers and Manufacturers Can Bridge the Gap

More precise and consumer-friendly biomarker detection technologies are coming to market at a pace that can help users gain rich insight into their health and well-being from anywhere and at any time. This is especially important when it comes to preventive healthcare.

Imagine if your smartwatch could detect early signs of heart disease just by tracking your heart rate and blood pressure. Or what if your smart mirror could analyze your skin cells and reveal early signs of melanoma? Thanks to the rapid rise of biomarker detection technologies, these seemingly futuristic use cases are quickly becoming a reality.

Biomarkers — the measurable indicators present in our bodies that offer insights into our health and well-being — are a familiar concept in healthcare spaces. Think about your annual physical. Your nurse or doctor likely measures your weight, blood pressure, and body temperature, and maybe even performs blood tests. From these biomarkers, your healthcare team can provide an overview of your health, including your risk for developing certain diseases, how well current medications are working, and whether you need any further testing or treatment.

While biomarker detection technologies were once limited to clinical settings, various consumer applications now exist — a trend that will only accelerate thanks to ongoing AI advancements. Healthcare assessments in a clinical setting will always remain important, but given how quickly our bodies change and illnesses spread, the more frequent and easy checkpoints we have when it comes to our health and wellness beyond traditional healthcare environments, the better.

But where do developers, manufacturers, and other technology decision-makers fit into the mix?

The future of biomarker technologies for consumers

Whether a result of increased patient access to healthcare information, changing generational attitudes toward wellness, or cultural shifts brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, consumer interest in health and well-being has spiked in recent years. However, biomarkers are still a relatively untapped healthcare concept, especially outside of a doctor’s office or hospital.

Of course, biomarker detection technology in the consumer realm is by no means a completely new trend. People already interact with devices that measure their biomarkers nearly every day, like smartwatches measuring your heart rate, oxygen levels, or sleep patterns. The use of biomarkers also extends into the cosmetics space. For example, Neutrogena offers a tool that uses a device’s camera to scan your face and create a customized skincare routine. Revea uses precision scanning via smartphone cameras to measure key skin health parameters.

What’s changing now is the growing accuracy and accessibility of biomarker technologies in our daily lives. This is largely thanks to advancements in AI, which are enabling more accurate data capture, evaluation, and pattern spotting. Like in a clinical setting, a single biomarker typically doesn’t provide a complete picture of our health, and the merging of different data streams is critical in achieving accurate results, healthcare plans, and even cosmetic treatments.

More precise and consumer-friendly biomarker detection technologies are coming to market at a pace that can help users gain rich insight into their health and well-being from anywhere and at any time. This is especially important when it comes to preventive healthcare. For example, imagine a mobile app that uses your phone’s camera to analyze your eye health when you log in via face recognition. While you may visit your eye doctor every two years, this app would scan your eyes on a more routine basis to spot early signs of eye disease, accounting for various biomarkers like tear fluids and retinal nerve fiber layer thickness.

If this technology spots potential warning signs, it can signal that you should seek expert care immediately. As a result, you may be able to slow the progression of any diseases through regular monitoring, early treatment, or lifestyle changes.

New technologies, many of which are only seen in laboratories today, will continue to become miniaturized and find their way into consumer electronics. When combined with image-based apps, innovations in spectroscopy, immunoassays, and clinical chemistry tests like those for Covid-19 will present opportunities for users to look at their health and wellness from entirely new perspectives. Parameters that are currently only measurable by blood tests such as cholesterol, inflammation markets, and allergy screenings could be accessible at the touch of a button.

Biomarker tech integration: Considerations for app developers and mobile manufacturers

More widespread use cases for biomarker detection won’t happen based on consumer enthusiasm alone — technologists play an important role, too. As biomarker detection technology continues to evolve, it’s critical for app developers and consumer device manufacturers to prioritize the development of user-friendly applications and devices that leverage this technology so consumers can better manage their health.

Like always, the goal of developers and manufacturers is to create digital products that are user-friendly, reliable, and innovative. Consider the integration of emerging technologies into consumer applications to improve customer experiences, such as AI-powered chatbots. This trend’s rise harkens back to core UX principles that have existed for decades. Developers prioritize easy and frictionless experiences on behalf of consumers, offering digital experiences that consumers will actually enjoy and turn to. As consumers continue to place increased importance on wellness, they will look for tools that support their health — and developers are poised to lead the way.

The adoption of biomarkers is simply the next evolution in enhancing the customer experience. But there are several factors to consider when it comes to integrating biomarker detection technology into consumer devices and applications:

  • Scale: Biomarkers are primarily measured with large, medical-grade laboratory equipment that consumes a significant amount of energy. Downscaling this type of technology to enable biomarkers in small, battery-powered devices presents various obstacles and logistical challenges.
  • Usability: Medically trained personnel rely on years of education to collect, measure, and interpret biomarkers in healthcare settings. How can we ensure data integrity with biomarker detection technology in consumer applications? And how can we make the technology and subsequent data accessible and usable for the average consumer without professional assistance or live analysis?
  • Regulatory and privacy standards: The FDA and similar regulatory agencies oversee medical device usage and production. So, if you use biomarker technology to diagnose or monitor health conditions in a consumer setting, your software may be subject to strict regulation. Even if the technology isn’t explicitly regulated, you must still take steps to protect user privacy and security. This includes obtaining consent from users to collect biomarker data and developing a privacy policy that clearly explains how you will collect, use, share, and protect their personal data.

Prioritize biomarker technologies to maintain a competitive edge

Just as app developers and mobile manufacturers have embraced emerging technologies in the past, it’s time to seize the opportunities biomarker detection technologies offer in consumer health and cosmetic applications.

As consumers increasingly invest in their health and well-being, they will look for digital solutions that provide actionable healthcare data and insights. But consumer appetite for this type of technology experience alone isn’t enough. Developers play a critical role in offering technologies that lead users in the right direction.

Embracing biomarker technologies not only aligns with evolving consumer needs, but also paves the way for innovative solutions that could save lives and lead to a healthier society.

Photo: ]metamorworks, Getty Images

Dr. Wilfried Hermes is Director of Consumer Electronics, North America & Europe, at trinamiX. Wilfried received a Ph. D. in Chemistry from Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany. He started his career with BASF SE in Germany in 2011. Upon the foundation of trinamiX GmbH, he joined the company in 2015 and has held multiple positions including researcher and sales manager.

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