At this stage in the evolution of mHealth, how do we make it easier for sites and patients to stay engaged with a clinical trial? In this interview, BBK Worldwide’s Erica Mercado provides her insights on mHealth user experience optimization, adaptive engagement strategies, and mHealth’s integrated future.
We often emphasize the importance of developers having a deep understanding of an app’s intended audience. How do you approach app development and design with regard to a patient audience?
When considering a patient in a clinical R&D setting, you have to think about the different ways that people manage their healthcare. If, for example, a clinical trial is testing a new oncology treatment for newly diagnosed patients, these patients will be more eager to understand their condition and engage with an app. On the other hand, a Type 1 diabetes patient, who is typically familiar with managing their condition, would be more inclined to use an app focused on treatment maintenance that is tailored to fit within their established treatment framework.
Having extensive knowledge of your intended audience allows you to distribute highly specialized content in a way that patients are most disposed to access it. The mechanism for delivering this content could be an app, or it could be more traditional, like a brochure. However you try to engage with patients, your message must be made available on multiple platforms through multiple channels.
Scalability and flexibility are terms we hear often in context of mobile and digital technologies. How do these terms apply to mHealth app development, and why are they so important?
The process of trial and error necessary for developing industry-specific technologies comes with its inherent costs, so you’ll want to make sure that whatever piece of mHealth technology you are building is going to be flexible to account for unforeseen challenges. It would be extremely time consuming and expensive to build an app from the ground up for every single study, or to adjust a hard-coded app for a change in site or patient needs.
With the app framework that we’ve built, we rely library on a of functionality that we can repurpose, deploy easily and change quickly based on the needs of any intended audience.
A thorough understanding of your audience is invaluable to building a truly adaptable piece of technology, where facilitating site and patient needs in real time is critical.
What impact will healthcare apps continue to have on pharma and clinical research?
Between apps, wearables, and the general population’s growing interest in managing their own health, it will be our job to connect technologies and data streams in a way that better service patients, researchers, and healthcare providers. Even now, for example, you see people using wearable devices connected to their phones. Where is that data going? How do you communicate those pieces of data to physicians? Eventually, our highly regulated industry will need to take advantage of how these different pieces of technology can communicate with each other. A sponsor’s stand-alone, study-specific app, while helpful to a single clinical trial, has the potential to be so much more powerful as part of an integrated network of data-sharing technologies.