Guest Column | April 4, 2018

How Mobile App Development Helps Precision Medicine

By Abby Adams, a Senior Business Analyst, Itransition

Mobile app development aims to help precision medicine in further evolution into the clinical realm.

The evolution of precision medicine gives providers new opportunities for targeted therapeutics. Insights from genomics start to supersede the guessing games applied to treating a variety of cancers, chronic conditions, neurodegenerative diseases and more.

Apart from the actual genomic data, there’s a massive amount of information that also needs to be collected for accurate interpretation of genomics. In particular, healthcare researchers and providers use big data that focuses on patients’ lifestyles and environments to close the gaps in actionable information and spare patients from ineffective, unnecessary or painful procedures.

According to Jonathan Sheldon, Global VP of Oracle Health Sciences, “precision medicine has always been moving fast, but over the last two years or so, it has really accelerated into the clinical space.”

On top of everything else, this acceleration has interestingly moved precision medicine into the mobile realm. To find out how this direction will benefit targeted medicine, we will review the most interesting and recent advancements across mobile app development in the precision medicine field.

Prerequisites For Mobile Technology

In 2015, Obama announced the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative that featured six key principles of delivering “the right treatment at the right time to the right person.” One of these principles included providing patients with an opportunity to access, understand and share their own digital health data.

The National Institutes of Health expanded on this initiative further, focusing on mHealth as a source of patient health data. NIH explained that their idea to help the initiative succeed is to use mobile and wireless technologies, since “large studies on health and disease typically collect health and lifestyle data on participant volunteers from medical records and extensive phone or paper surveys.” The organization also stated that “these devices could provide the ability to track health behaviors and environmental exposures much more frequently with minimal burden on participants.”

Particularly, NIH suggested the following ways of interacting with patients through mobile devices:

  • Questionnaires about patients’ health status, activities, emotional states and more.
  • Assessment of patients’ daily regimen and exposure to negative environmental effects (e.g., air or water pollution) via geolocation on smartphones and wearables.
  • Assessment of heart rate, activity levels and other physiological states (sleep, breath, etc.) via wearables.
  • Feedback surveys to keep patients connected to the initiative.

Currently, more than 40 organizations, health systems and companies take their part in the initiative, including such healthcare and IT vendors as IBM, Verily, Itransition, touchlab, Validic and more.

Pioneering Apps in Mobile Precision Medicine

Stanford's Myheart Counts App

Stanford’s upgraded MyHeart Counts app unites mHealth with precision medicine. It is designed to help patients make better heart health choices via a personalized care management plan.

Patients share their daily health status by stating activity levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels via the app. Stanford, in partnership with the Oxford University and the mobile app development company LifeMap Solutions, processes this data, analyzes it and creates a personal health plan – the Stanford Coaching Module.

This plan consists of two parts. First, an app’s user gets a week of baseline measurements. The second part introduces four one-week behavior change interventions based on comparing the patient’s health data to pop health metrics.

Accordingly, the app allows supporting a patient’s treatment and also finds a range of effective interventions that will help patients make positive changes in their behavior.

Cara App

The first precision medicine solution for digestive health, Cara is a food and symptom diary. It was created for patients who suffer from the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), reflux and food intolerances.

These conditions are mostly treated with conventional one-size-fits-all approaches, which can be ineffective for patients with digestive health problems due to differences in medication response, individual gut microbial fingerprint, lifestyle and environment.

The app allows patients to enter their activity, symptoms, nutrition and medications. Cara analyzes the data and then provides patients with actionable insights regarding their daily regimen and treatment process.

Moreover, patients can pass a quick assessment, defining their disease and regular symptoms to get an advice on the Cara Biotics formula – a set of personally tailored probiotics. The app’s algorithms can define the patterns in symptoms and advise on adjustments of a patient’s individual probiotic formula, making sure that a patient moves in a healthy direction.

Including these precision medicine elements into treatment of chronic digestive disorders, Cara promises to offer patients a more targeted care with reduced side effects, non-responder rates, and, eventually, costs.

Is Mobile The Right Turn For Precision Medicine?

Even while we don’t have any study summaries from existing mobile applications yet, we believe that mobile app development will bring benefits for targeted medicine. We agree with the NIH that mHealth allows for convenient sharing of patient data, which is critical for personalized therapies.

Mobile applications have already become a connecting point between patients and their providers, so it makes perfect sense to use them as tools to personalize treatment plans or create meaningful symptom patterns.

About The Author

Abby Addams is a Senior Business Analyst at Itransition, a healthcare software development company. Abby has 10 year of experience in projects covering EHR system design and implementation, mHealth application development, and healthcare data analytics.