Demonstrating the value of mobile health Through evidence-based initiatives

Earlier this week,  the pharma company Boehringer Ingelheim launched a study to evaluate a digital technology enabled self-management solution to potentially improve the health of patients with Type 2 diabetes. The study, called SMART, aims to personalize the disease management for patients via a program delivered through web and smartphone. According to a press release, the program will include a personalized action plan with health behavior improvement goals, a wireless glucose meter transmitting data to clinical monitors and HbA1c self-test kits.

Using mobile devices for diabetes management is nothing new–many patients have been using iPhone-connected insulin pump for years and there have been hundreds of mobile apps that offer diabetes management supports. What makes the SMART study unique is that the program will combine medical claim data and evaluate its impact on medical and pharmaceutical cost, clinical care and consumer behavior modification. These real-world data will be helpful for us to get answers to some of the important questions in mobile health while we are moving to an outcome-based and patient-centric model–Can mobile health drive patient outcome? Will mobile health really reduce cost? What therapeutic areas may benefit the most from mobile health?

Studies like SMART will be increasingly important as mobile health initiatives are being carried out across the health care landscape–from clinical research, disease prevention, medical intervention to rehabilitation. We need to understand whether these efforts eventually work or how we can make them work.

An article published online last week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine highlights the importance of demonstrating evidence in mobile health. The article summarizes discussions among a variety of health care stakeholders during a workshop at NIH. It concludes “whether mHealth leads to better overall health outcomes and reduced disease burden is still unknown” and “rigorous research is needed that examines the potential, as well as the challenges, of using mobile technologies to improve health outcomes.”

SMART is launched at a time when “big pharma” has begun to consider how to shift its role from “selling drugs” to “managing patients’ health journey.” Mobile health may offer tremendous opportunities to make this happen. But first, let’s find some evidence.

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