Digital Biomarkers and Therapeutics: Getting Real

The ubiquity of connected devices and the wealth of digitized data available today are giving rise to the field of digital medicine. We can now leverage the data to discover digital biomarkers (measures of physiology or behavior collected by technology) for faster and more efficient monitoring and prediction of health states. For example, digital biomarkers can leverage a smartphone’s accelerometer to measure movement, typing cadence to measure cognitive performance, or the camera to measure heart rate.

Nearly a third of U.S. consumers already use some type of tracking tool, including health apps, smart watches, wearable fitness trackers, and/or websites to monitor their health and fitness, food, diet, sleep, and/or mood—enabling a vital stepping stone for the implementation of digital biomarker measurement. In contrast to active apps, which require the user to open and interact with the platform, these passive or low-effort tracking mobile apps and wearables require little or no action/input from the user.

Digital biomarkers can become a frictionless way to track symptoms, disease progression, and medication adherence, transforming data into actionable insights and beneficial health outcomes and programs. Advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence, algorithm development, and statistical data modelling allow useful digital surrogates to be revealed. Specifically, a sub-field of machine learning (known as deep learning) has emerged with algorithms that have unprecedented representational power, and thus, the ability to discover patterns that humans are unable to find or describe.

There are enormous potential opportunities to test digital biomarkers with advanced technology and data science. These techniques have the ability to monitor and predict personalized health outcomes for individual patients, as well as overall trends of health and disease states for patient populations.

Pharma marketers can take several actions as digital biomarkers increasingly play a growing role in healthcare, including:

  • Educate patients on the benefits of digital biomarkers and how the wearables and smartphone technology that they already own could be used in more powerful ways.
  • Encourage HCPs to take advantage of connected devices that already generate reliable data about their patients in fields such as diabetes and hypertension.
  • Launch partnerships with patients, payers, and HCPs to seize upon passive smartphone capabilities, using built-in sensors as a way to gather anonymized patient data at scale.
  • Leverage data science analytics and machine learning to dive deep into bio-data as a way to get a jump on the personalized medicine future.
  • Assess white space opportunities in the marketplace and scientific literature; gather and develop scientific evidence that will enable you to find a gap in the market and uncover a competitive advantage.

Digital biomarkers are an innovative way to help monitor and predict health outcomes to improve and save lives. These techniques also help foster improved partnerships between pharma companies and payers by using evidence-based research to support population health. Consequently, digital biomarkers can be leveraged to inform the development of invaluable healthcare marketing tools that deliver low cost and high efficiency benefits for all stakeholders.

  • Adam Palanica, PhD is a Behavioral Scientist at Klick Health. Adam has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience Psychology and proven expertise using neuroscience research techniques and technologies. 

    • Yan Fossat

      Yan Fossat is VP and Principal Investigator at Klick Labs, the digital innovation center at Klick Health. He was named a 2017 PM360 ELITE award recipient.

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