Multiple studies have shown that poor sleep can up your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer. But two new studies published last week — one in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine and the other in the journal Scientific Reports — uncover two more pieces of the puzzle. One reports poor sleep may actually increase the risk for engaging in behaviors that put a person at risk for these chronic diseases to begin with. And the second reports that poor sleep actually changes the way the body gets rid of cholesterol, and likely plays a role in increasing your risk of developing heart disease.
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This series examines five ways in which social media is having an impact on the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, focusing on how it can be harnessed to help traditional methods of patient engagement move forward. This third article examines how social media can give a better understanding of the patient journey.
Figure 1. Extract from Jenni's Guts blog about living with Crohn's Disease and other conditions.
In his article on patient centricity, Chris McCourt says, 'the age of patient-centricity and participatory medicine is fully underway; while debate continues as to what exactly patient-centricity constitutes, social media is helping patients play a much more active role in their healthcare than in the past.'
As discussed in an earlier post, more and more people are going online to understand and diagnose their symptoms. A recent survey by the European Commission found that 75 per cent of respondents think the internet is a good way of finding out more about health, with 90 per cent of these feeling that the information they got online helped them to improve their knowledge about health-related topics. Further research suggests that 43 per cent of visits to hospitals or clinical sites originate from a search engine. Therefore social media presents many exciting possibilities for mapping the patient journey in more detail than traditional methods, providing natural and unsolicited data directly from the patients themselves.
Google, Yahoo Answers, chatrooms, forums, groups and patient-centric forums such asPatientsLikeMe are all brimming with information directly from patients about how they are reacting to treatments, how their condition affects them day-to-day while providing insights into their milestones, barriers, achievements and how they support each other and are supported.
Such information can help healthcare providers better understand the reasons behind patients abandoning their treatment, for example, which can assist them in supporting patients through the more difficult stages and encourage their continued engagement.
Filling the gaps
Information readily available on social media can highlight gaps in patient knowledge. This can help healthcare providers produce revised materials to help educate them on their condition and further mitigate the confusion and anger that can result from feeling alone and unprepared. We are facing an increasingly well-connected and better-informed population of patients in an age of Patient-Reported Outcomes and a largely outcomes-based system of healthcare provision. Therefore all such information deserves serious attention in the fight to improve and centralise healthcare.
Social media lets patients discuss their problems, highlights and concerns in their own language with people from their own culture. Figures 2 and 3, taken from a presentation given by Liesl Leary at the DIA conference in Paris this year, demonstrate how language and culture can have a huge influence not only on the nature of reporting, but also on the significance ascribed by different people of different cultures to the same symptoms of a condition. Exploring this data can help caregivers understand the attitudes of patients from these different backgrounds and thereby adapt healthcare and support provision accordingly.
Figure 2. Cultural contrasts must be taken into account.
Figure 3. Tactics can be established based on listening to patients' needs.
But there are further applications of social media and patient engagement. For example, look at the blog 'Jenni's Guts', in which Jenni speaks openly of her Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia and depression. It has attracted 86,731 views to date (19/10/15) of her posts musing on her low points suffering from her various conditions (Figure 1), which attract moral support from fellow sufferers, guides on how she lives with her conditions (such as the ERPK, or Emergency Roadside Potty Kit) and, perhaps most interestingly from a medical professional's perspective, links clinical surveys which she promotes to her readers (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Jenni promotes research surveys to her thousands of followers.
Blogs such as this, along with patient forums, chat rooms, boards and various other social media platforms provide a concentrated pool of people who have a target condition and would be eligible for clinical trials. It is no surprise, then, that social media has become a patient recruitment tool for many forward-thinking companies.
Views of different age groups
As well as providing insights into the patient journey across cultures, social information can show patient focus in different age groups. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just 'millennials' who have an active online presence when it comes to healthcare. Studies show that not only are so-called 'boomers' active online when it comes to health, but they also tend to be further along in the patient journey, with more focus on obstacles, treatment risks and efficacy of medication.
Much as the patients' experience and attitudes are a central part of any patient journey analysis, an understanding of their culture and language must be at the centre of any recruitment strategy. Though these hubs of patient activity provide a great source of appropriate patients in trial recruitment, each country requires a separate strategy that is sensitive to linguistic nuance and cultural norms
Through asking yourself the right kinds of questions, and consulting with vetted resources and guides, your idea will be on the path to success. To help in this regard, the team at Edison Nation Medical (Charlotte, NC) has compiled a guide for medical device inventors. This tool is intended to get inventors thinking about their project goals, while giving them a glimpse of the innovation process at large.
Bertalan Mesko highlights some of the key trends that are set to change our approach to health and wellbeing – and the way pharma does business. It's fascinating to witness how disruptive innovations can truly change the way healthcare is delivered...
In the unconscious mind, an "app" is a small program available on smartphone, offered either for free or for less than a euro, and that gives a service. In health care, this simple question of wording has therefore a pejorative connotation of "gadget".
Thus, the specialized and general media often list the Top 10 or Top 20 most useful health apps, mixing indifferently medical specialties: choose an app, choose a disease.
Should we list the Moovcare solution which demonstrated a very significant improvement in the survival of patients suffering from lung cancer alongside other medical "apps" giving information for instance about pregnancy simply because they use the same technology?
Medical devices are increasingly moving out of healthcare settings and into people's homes. Here are five pitfalls that device designers should watch out for, courtesy of Kenneth Fine, president of Proven Process Medical
The field of electronics continues to evolve at an exponential rate despite many pundits’ declaration that Moore’s law is dead. In any event, it is still certainly hard to keep up with all of the advances in the field of electronics. Here, we present an artificially intelligent mobile chip, dissolving implantable electronics, and a host of other advances.
The CES technology show recently took place in Las Vegas. The show, well-known for its gadget news and video games, also featured exciting medical innovations. Forget about another dozen fitness wearables or new generation smartwatches – the top 7 breakthroughs are truly inspiring steps forward. 1) L'Oréal helps prevent skin cancer A smart patch developed…
Ray Kurzweil has made a name for himself for making outlandish technology forecasts, many of which have proven accurate. Here, we summarize some of his predictions that could have the largest implications on medicine.
One of the biggest ways the changing digital health landscape will affect the pharma industry is that pharma companies increasingly stand to lose control over their own stories, according to a new report from McKinsey & Company, who spoke to 20 thought leaders in various pharma-adjacent sectors.
How the Internet of Things will revolutionise medicine | From more advanced wearables to homes and bodies full of sensors, the Internet of Things is promising to give the healthcare industry its biggest check-up yet. Buying advice from the leading technology site
Google’s cofounders may have once downplayed that they’re interested in turning the tech giant into a healthcare company. But their company sure hasn’t been acting that way these days.
While Apple has had some hiccups when it comes to its goals of becoming a go-to place for health tracking and data, Google has made waves with far more focused medical device innovations—not to mention an effort to reverse the effects of aging.
Even Google Glass, better known as an accessory for creepy tech types before its initial version was retired, still turned out to be a pretty useful tool for surgeons—with Stanford University researchers extolling Glass’ benefits.
Now there is news that Google is reorganizing, with more riskier, "moonshot" ventures separated out from Google and its search ad cash cow under the umbrella of the new Alphabet holding company. The new Alphabet structure could give Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin more room to experiment, with investors less worried because Google is more sheltered from the risks.
Technology companies are developing a myriad of wearable health devices that can track physical activity, monitor glucose and even sense if the user falls. What do consumers think about wearables? What are the implications for the health industry?
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