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Patient-generated data is changing the face of medical research

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are launching a small trial involving patient-generated data from wearables. The 40 patients all have multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. The patients will use wearable devices to track activity and sleep and answer survey questions focusing on quality of life measures like fatigue and appetite through a mobile app.

Pain is one of the most difficult symptoms to manage and assess in patients with multiple myeloma. The researchers believe there is a link between self-reported pain levels and activity and sleep patterns. The patients will track their sleep, activity, and self-reported quality of life for four months after wearing the device for one week to establish a baseline. The researchers are hoping to learn more about the utility of patient-generated data through mobile technology. If the trial passes the feasibility test, the team will likely expand it to other partners and types of cancer.

Many in the health care community recognize that success in cancer treatment cannot only be measured by impact on the disease, such as shrinking a tumor, but also by how patients are feeling and their quality of life. For example, the University of Pennsylvania Health System began a study last year to test wearables to monitor vital signs in cancer patients to see if the devices can improve patient experience and quality of care in the hospital. The study will determine if having patients wear the device on their arm while staying in the hospital leads to better rest and less disruption for the patient. With the device, care providers can monitor patients from a distance rather than interrupting them while they are sleeping to take vitals.

Analysis: Researchers and health care professionals are increasingly interested in using patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in clinical research and care delivery to improve quality of life and health outcomes. PROs typically include information about quality of life, symptoms (e.g., pain, nausea, energy loss, and sleep disturbances, function (disability), satisfaction with care, adherence to prescribed medications or other therapy, and perceived value of treatment.

Wearables and related mobile technologies are allowing large groups of patients to engage with each other and the health care system in new ways to share information and collect data. While consumer demand for wearables like wristbands, sports monitors, and other health monitors are driving growth, the research community, health systems, and the life sciences industry is also seeing opportunities.

Wearables are providing patient-generated health data that may foster better care and research. Health systems, clinicians, and researchers are developing ways to incorporate the benefits of these technologies to improve the quality of care.

(Sources: MobiHealthNews, “Memorial Sloan Kettering tests wearables, apps, in small cancer trial, July 21, 2016; PM Live, “Getting personal with wearable tech,” August 17, 2016).

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Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.