Embracing the promise of mHealth

2015 was the year that mobile health technology began to come of age and the implications for healthcare, let alone pharmaceuticals, are huge.

Technology only becomes socially interesting when it is technologically boring. To reach people at scale we need ubiquity. In everyone’s pocket there is a super-computer that knows who you are, where you are and what you are doing. Add in sensor technology and integration with wearable technology, and the capacity to radically change the way we keep people well, diagnose disease and support patients becomes a reality.

The challenge is to be clinically relevant, proven to improve clinical outcomes through the technology irrespective of medication. The majority of mHealth applications produced by pharma are nothing more than data entry systems, diaries and reminder services that have little value for patients.

If we can raise our collective ambitions to produce clinically significant, connected and contextual mHealth solutions we can finally begin to tackle issues such as management of chronic disease, the ageing population, health inequalities and access to medicines in a different way. The World Health Organization, the European Commission and the NHS all believe that mobile health could be a key spoke in the future of healthcare, and I think pharma is ready to step it up a gear in 2016.

Alex Butler, managing director, The EarthWorks

UK strikes back

Game-changing work to speed trial set-up

Perhaps the single most game-changing new process for clinical trials is targeted firmly at improving set-up times in England. This is the new HRA single ethics and NHS R&D approval process, which brings together the assessment of governance and legal compliance with the independent REC opinion provided through the UK research ethics service.

The benefits of this new system for industry sponsors are obvious. It will simplify the study set-up process for the NHS in England, using one application to the HRA for both the ethics review, and a review by HRA staff on behalf of the NHS. Research questions will be answered quicker, research funding won’t be wasted navigating complex systems, and the NHS will be freed up to focus on delivering research avoiding the duplication of research reviews by NHS support teams.

It is being rolled-out incrementally by testing the process with simple studies first and moving on to more complex trials. Complete roll-out is due by April 2016.

If companies are not already doing so, then I urge them to engage with the HRA now so they can ensure they’re ready to benefit from this transformative new process. Hopefully this new system will mean we never have to hear ‘the rest of the world completed the study before the English sites had started’ ever again.

Dr Mark Edwards, R&D director, Ethical Medicines Industry Group