Tom O'Leary considers how the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is evolving the patient role in pharma

Increasing advancements in digital technology has provided pharmaceutical industry stakeholders with new innovations that have the potential to accelerate drug discovery, research and development. Some of these, such as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – connected devices used within the medical and healthcare industries – will further revolutionise the efficiency of trials, while increasing clinical care outcomes.

This article explores how the IoMT can reduce burden on patients, while increasing clinical development programme efficiency to ultimately improve patient care.

How IoMT supports patients in clinical trials

For trial success, not only do the right patients need to be selected, but they also need to feel supported throughout the entire clinical trial.

Patients often have difficulty finding clinical trials, and later enrolment and participation can bring additional burdens. Using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and predictive analytics can reveal patients most suitable for trials. From the moment a patient is entered into an electronic medical record (EMR), they then can easily be connected and matched to clinical trials through health databases. The IoMT, such as electronic informed consent, can make joining and participating in clinical trials easier and more convenient for patients.

Once enrolled in a trial, data collected from IoMT – including at-home digital monitoring and virtual visits – can create a personalised trial participation experience, driving better patient adherence and retention. Wearable monitors and apps incorporated into a clinical trial can provide continuous monitoring, making a trial safer and reducing site visits. Having an online support network can provide quality interaction between the trial participants and sites, thus mitigating any issues as they arise.

Additionally, data acquired from IoMT can help develop more detailed patient profiles for future trials, accelerating recruitment and reducing start-up costs, in addition to informing insights on patient demographics, speeding commercialisation.

How IoMT leads to better trial outcomes

IoMT can also help to refine and strengthen study designs. EMR data can help clinical trial designers develop protocols that meet patient needs, easing recruitment and decreasing the chance of amendments, potentially shortening timelines.

Further, IoMT can be used to develop digital endpoints. Quantifying disease improvement by measuring physical parameters, offers a greater chance of trial success. For example, the six-minute walking test is widely used in respiratory drug trials as a regulatory endpoint. Automated monitoring and real-world evidence data collection can also support trial safety, early decision-making and adaptive changes, therefore improving efficiency and accelerating development.

The integration of IoMT in drug development can yield valuable insights towards a better understanding of the disease pathology in a real-world environment, in addition to supporting and streamlining regulatory approvals.

The future: digital pharma for the patient-centric trial

For IoMT to make the greatest impact on drug development, this new frontier will need engagement from industry stakeholders. Already, there are several initiatives launched that aim to promote and streamline adoption of IoMT in drug development. As sponsors embrace the IoMT and apply it to their clinical trial strategy, working with a strategic partner with experience in implementing these technologies can set up a trial for success from the start, rather than adding it on as an afterthought.

Tom O’Leary is Chief Information Officer at ICON plc. For more information, see www.iconplc.com/patients or www.iconplc.com/digital