How Health Information Technology is Transforming Human Lives

Contributing Experts at Medrio: Cameron Kinnear, Principal Solutions Consultant EMEA; Amy Fasiczka, ePRO Solutions Design Architect; Ian Davison, RTSM Subject Matter Expert; Rod McGlashing, Data Science Subject Matter Expert; Melissa Newara, VP of eClinical Solutions and Consulting; Marc Weinberg, Senior Director of RTSM

We live in a golden age of healthcare innovation. After decades of laying the necessary scientific groundwork, many advancements are coming together to create a symphony of progress within healthcare

These advancements are pushing clinical research forward, while also driving the consumerization of healthcare. 

Technology is bettering human health by improving quality of life. It’s also empowering individuals to take charge of their own health, fostering a healthier and more resilient society.

The combination of artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), wearables, gene therapy breakthroughs, and more are creating previously unimaginable opportunities.

Here’s a glimpse into how these advancements are offering hope for a better tomorrow.

1. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare 

AI is demonstrating its tremendous value within diagnostic imaging. More than three-quarters of AI and machine learning devices authorized by the FDA center on medical images.

For example, doctors can instantly diagnose diabetic retinopathy using an AI algorithm developed by Google. A team developed and trained a model, creating Automated Retinal Disease Assessment (ARDA) to accurately interpret retinal scans. 

In a recent clinical trial, Google’s ARDA graded the images of 3,000 diabetic patients at two Indian hospitals. ARDA’s findings were on par with doctors’ assessments. By using the AI model, healthcare workers can save time and focus their limited resources on treatment. 

Interestingly, AI algorithms can also use retinal images to predict the risk of a significant cardiovascular event. This kind of breakthrough in early diagnosis and prevention may save an untold number of lives. 

Artificial intelligence is also being used in breast cancer screening and diagnosis with great success. 

A 2023 study showed that AI readings of mammograms identified 20% more cases of breast cancer than the typical reading by two radiologists. According to a 2022 review, “AI can detect breast mass, segmentation, and density of breast tissue; furthermore, it can also identify calcification benefiting the diagnosis and management of patients.”

The combination of AI and machine learning may soon allow patients to use their cell phones to conduct their own medical imaging. Such AI-powered breakthroughs hold the promise of democratizing healthcare access, particularly in underserved regions where traditional medical infrastructure is lacking. 

As AI and machine learning are fully unleashed, countless lives may be saved through early detection and intervention.

2. Virtual Reality in Healthcare 

Virtual Reality (VR) may have been originally built for entertainment, but it is now being wielded to help people with mental health and chronic pain. VR-based exposure therapy (VRET) is even being studied as a possible treatment for PTSD. 

In fact, Medrio employee Cameron Kinnear uses VR to support fellow veterans with PTSD

Since VR allows users to suspend disbelief, they can re-enter stressful situations within a controlled environment. Using team-based exercises, they can work through difficult scenarios alongside others, face their discomfort, and gain control of the outcome. 

Harnessing the power of virtual reality for PTSD treatment may do more than alleviate symptoms—it may also foster resilience, restore hope, and pave the way for a brighter future where individuals can heal and thrive, free from the shackles of their past traumas.

In the past, the hefty price tag tied to VR headsets was a barrier.  Now smartphones, with an accompanying app, can be transformed into ad hoc headsets with cardboard blinders

As VR technology becomes increasingly accessible through smartphone integration, more individuals, regardless of economic status, can now access immersive therapeutic experiences, with the potential to foster mental well-being and potentially revolutionize mental health care on a global scale.

3. Digital Therapeutics (DTx)

Digital therapeutics use “evidence-based, clinically evaluated software to treat, manage, and prevent a broad spectrum of diseases and disorders.” They address diseases and conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and mental health disorders. 

As of December 2022, the FDA approved or cleared approximately 23 digital therapeutics (DTx) products to prevent, treat, or cure illness.

One of these therapeutics is Stanza, a prescription-based DTx offering new hope to adults with fibromyalgia. 

Until now, there have been few therapies on the table for patients with fibromyalgia. But, this app-based therapeutic has been shown to provide substantial and durable improvements in fibromyalgia symptoms, well-being, and quality of life.

DTx can make healthcare engaging and accessible. With the ability to facilitate continuous monitoring, timely interventions, and behavior modifications, DTx may enhance treatment adherence and improve health outcomes.

Digital therapeutics hold the potential to address gaps in healthcare delivery by expanding access to specialized care, particularly in underserved communities and rural areas where resources are limited. 

As this innovative category gains ground, it may lead to a more equitable and efficient healthcare landscape.

To learn more about DTx clinical trial innovations, explore our latest expert-backed webinar and blog.

4. Gene Therapy Technology Innovations

The Human Genome Project is considered one of the greatest scientific feats in history. The project provided fundamental information about the human blueprint. It laid the foundation for the current surge of gene therapy advances.

Gene therapy represents a pivot point in medicine. A time offering hope for individuals suffering from genetic disorders and chronic diseases

By targeting the underlying genetic defects responsible for various ailments, gene therapy holds the promise of not just treating symptoms, but potentially offering cures. 

From inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy to complex conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, gene therapy holds the potential to revolutionize treatment paradigms and improve patient outcomes. 

In 2012, the initial lab experiments demonstrating CRISPR’s potential as a gene-editing tool were published. This accomplishment paved the way for personalized therapies tailored to individual genetic profiles. 

Just over a decade later, in 2023, a landmark approval of a CRISPR-based medicine to treat both sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia ushered in a new era of genetic medicine.

Currently, the FDA has 2,500 cell and gene therapy investigational new drug applications (INDs) on file. These are targeting a wide range of inherited genetic diseases and acquired disorders. 

One of the latest gene therapy approvals belongs to Lenmeldy, the first-ever treatment for children with metachromatic leukodystrophy, a devastating genetic disorder that is otherwise fatal.

As gene therapy continues to evolve, it brings renewed optimism for patients and their families, offering the prospect of a future where genetic diseases may be consigned to history and where human health is profoundly transformed for the better.

To learn more about innovative approaches to rare disease, read our guide to rare disease clinical trials.

5. Consumer Wearable Technology in Healthcare 

In 2009, Fitbit was the first to market with a fitness tracking device. In the 15 years since, wearables have expanded, offering people unprecedented levels of detailed health information

Savvy patients are now arriving at their doctor’s offices with information about their heart health, breathing patterns, and sleep — more than ever before. 

Wearables allow for continuous monitoring of physiological parameters in real time. Beyond data collection for the sake of research, this real-time data may also open opportunities within decentralized rehabilitation. 

For example, healthcare providers may be able to monitor and analyze the gait patterns of Parkinson’s patients by using embedded movement sensors in smartphones. 

By adding personalized auditory cues, patients could receive ongoing assistance with the timing and rhythm of steps to prevent falls.

Since wearables offer the potential for longitudinal monitoring, researchers can track health outcomes over extended periods. Researchers may also leverage these consumer devices to identify early biomarkers of disease onset or progression

For example, researchers at Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University are undertaking a seven-year study to determine if an Apple Watch app can help prevent strokes.

By leveraging everyday wearables in clinical research, scientists can accelerate the pace of discovery, drive innovation in healthcare, and ultimately enhance the human condition by delivering more precise, evidence-based interventions and therapies

Learn in our recent blog about other solutions for capturing high-quality real-world data

The Future of Health Information Technology for Human Health

Technological advances are rapidly unfolding around us, promising the hope of a better future. As technologies continue to develop and overlap with one another, every year brings thrilling new medical breakthroughs. 

At Medrio, we are working towards a healthier world. And it’s our privilege to power studies that build on the thrilling technological innovation to create a better tomorrow. As the clinical research community advances, we are honored to contribute to a bright future. 

Enhancing Clinical Trials with Technology 

To be successful, innovative clinical trials require robust technology that is flexible and easy to use. It’s important to look for not just a vendor but a partner who provides hands-on support and consultation for the inevitable trial hurdles that will arise. 

For high-quality data to support cutting-edge research, consider looking for an:

These systems also help to support improved patient experiences. By providing remote access and optionality, patients can incorporate clinical trial participation into their lives more easily. Ultimately providing more treatment options to more people.

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