While a chronic disease diagnosis will undeniably alter the way someone lives, it cannot completely stop them from living. Being prescribed a lifetime of diagnostic and therapeutic activities can be overwhelming. It correlates to countless days, weeks, even months spent at the hospital, doctor’s office, pharmacy, therapist, etc., not including the time scheduling and driving to these various appointments.
While the frequency and time spent seems excessive with the relentless burden of chronic disease management, there is, in fact, a lot more time in-between those visits than spent within those visits. And those times in-between are arguably more accurate and, therefore, more important in understanding a patient’s true condition.
While the healthcare provider can observe baseline treatment efficacy under a certain set of environmental parameters while the patient is in the office, there are a whole host of various influences in that patient’s life as soon as he or she walks out the door – and those are data points we are not collecting. Thus, we don’t have a pulse on the wild swings or total success of treatment efficacy. As an example, researchers have realized that all of this missed information between appointments is having a negative impact on the way we view treatment of chronic disease. What happens during those 30,000 minutes+ between visits to your doctor?
That inter-appointment information could be invaluable in determining how a patient proceeds through treatment. If doctors had access to this data, it could help them provide better, more patient-specific treatment. There is only so much that a doctor can measure during a routine check up, especially as insurance reimbursement could be causing a shrinking timeframe the physician has available to spend with a patient. In conditions that don’t have readily apparent physical manifestations, there are a lot of uncertainties about the patient’s experience that can only be filled in by a patient communicating those facts to their physician. While it would be counterintuitive for a patient to fabricate their experience to a doctor, it may unknowingly occur. And while intentions are presumed to be in the best interest of the patient, patient-physician communication is not as simple as it sounds.
A patient could forget about a vital symptom that could be detrimental in determining the way a doctor provides them with treatment. Or, alternatively, there may be other health symptoms that they’re not aware of that could be signs of a worsening diagnosis. Also, when you’re suffering from a chronic disease, there are a number of ailments to which patients become conditioned. They have a “new normal”, so they may omit details on those ailments because they no longer remember a time when that wasn’t the case.
In many ways, wearable technology could dramatically increase the total patient data observed and monitored, which logically would lead to better therapeutic outcomes. And beyond that, there are many wearables that can help advise, remind, or support the patient with various recommendations for optimal health. Current solutions that I find to be quite interesting include those that are passively incorporating sensors, constantly collecting data, and seamlessly being included in a person’s current device armamentarium. For example:
Shade is a UV sensor linked to a smartphone to fight against Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. The inflammatory symptoms associated with this condition are exacerbated by increased levels of sun exposure. Shade passively collects this data and provides guidance on micro- and macro-behavior changes, thus improving the overall patient outcome.
Takeda is building a digital tech platform, iBData, to deliver constant symptom data streaming related to inflammatory bowel disease with the ultimate goal of providing physicians more information to better diagnose and treat the patient’s condition. With a condition that is so heavily influenced by the constant variables associated with nutrition and water intake, having more data to discover disease trends will undoubtedly help physicians and patients make better, more patient-specific decisions as related to the necessary therapy.
Bodytrak is a unique wearable that collects biometric information from your ear, a lesser known hotspot for collecting baseline health stats that are important for most any chronic disease. Currently, the device provides real-time streaming of body temperature, heart rate, VO2, speed, distance, and cadence while also providing features like making telephone calls and listening to music. It is certainly on trend in an inconspicuous inclusion of a patient’s everyday life.
As we all continue to transition to incorporating more and more tech into our lives for the purposes of health, work, and pleasure, the data collected will only provide a bigger area that can help to facilitate more informed decisions on individual patient care, but it can also create data subsets of groups of patients with comparable symptoms. These subsets have tremendous research implications for our ability to understand and predict chronic disease onset and progression.