Digital Health Age chats with Ben Reubenstein, CEO of app development company Possible Mobile.
Possible Mobile has been involved in the creation of apps across multiple sectors including sport, photography and healthcare. The company recently worked alongside pharmaceutical company GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) to develop an app using Apple’s ResearchKit.
Possible Mobile developed the PARADE app for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Patients filled out surveys regarding joint pain, fatigue and other symptoms related to their disease. The app also monitors activity and gives users a wrist test to perform which examines users’ movement. By examining the PARADE data healthcare providers can hopefully better understand patients’ conditions and look at possible treatments.
We spoke to Ben Reubenstein to discuss Possible Mobile’s work with GSK and his thoughts on digital health, healthcare data and data integration.
Could you tell me a little about Possible Mobile?
Possible Mobile is the genesis of a company I founded around the time the iPhone was released. I had one of the first 150 apps in the App Store. That experience was leveraged into helping in delivering best in class experiences and strategies on the major mobile platforms for brands looking to take successful businesses into the mobile age. They include a variety of verticals including sports, health, travel, and entertainment. We help our customers by keeping up to date with new trends in mobile and providing strategies on how to best leverage them. Mobile moves fast and we help our customers to become first movers in their space.
Could you tell me about the company’s work with GSK and the PARADE app?
GSK needed a partner who could execute a ResearchKit solution. ResearchKit is a technology released by Apple to help researchers sign up more participants for studies, keep more of them around for the study, and get back relevant data more quickly. Possible Mobile worked with GSK to take an existing study and translate it into this mobile friendly technology.
What were the biggest benefits of using mobile health compared to traditional methods used in clinical studies?
Overall the biggest advantage was the ability to recruit and signup participants quickly, from wherever was convenient for them. Being able to collect data from a mobile device may also help reduce the burden of patients in traditional clinical studies by reducing the frequency of doctor visits. Next, with reminders to participants during the study right on their device, it was easy to reengage them to continue participation.
How can healthcare companies utilise data in more efficient ways?
Our experience in the marketplace shows that there is a lot of available data but it exists in silos. At a high-level healthcare companies need to look at how they can create data warehouses to remove the silos and allow the data to be leveraged. The efficiencies of a data warehouse will allow different parties within the organisation to compose datasets in ways that can draw concrete conclusions. The data warehouse also allows organisations to better control the security across the data from a variety of perspectives including access permission, audits, and user satisfaction.
Do you think there needs to be a bigger emphasis placed on digital health to remove patients from clinical spaces?
Clinical settings are uncomfortable. They create anxiety in the patient and in my own experience I’ve seen a broad range of “bedside” manners. I don’t think it means all interactions turning digital, but are assisted digitally. For example Heal and others are starting to provide on demand house calls facilitated by an app. If apps and connected medical devices allow patients to receive treatment outside of clinical settings this is a win for both the patient and the provider.
In a clinical setting digital experiences could greatly improve patient satisfaction. The fact that every visit to every new provider results in filling out the exact same information over and over is insane. Huge opportunity to leverage identity systems and pre-existing digital solutions to help.
Do you think there needs to be more public awareness about digital health solutions?
Yes, there are so many disruptive technologies in the marketplace but awareness is low. Many times these digital solutions are cheaper, more easily accessible, and more effective. That awareness isn’t just with the general public though, it is with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. One great example of this is early in the app store we released iConverse, the first assisted communications app for low communicative and autistic individuals. It was a very simple app with 6 buttons communicating some basic needs like hunger, thirst, or the need for rest. This app was taking on solutions that were bulky and expensive already on the marketplace. It took a while to gain some notice, but once it gained traction it opened opportunities for these apps to flourish.
How important is the need for better data integration across healthcare?
The fragmentation of data is a disservice to patients, doctors, and health insurance companies. Medical records are scattered across primary care, hospitals, and insurance companies. Individuals often feel lost and have little control other than requesting service provider A send something to service provider B. Additionally, users are creating their own health data with smart devices like Apple Watch and other connected devices with that data existing in a silo. There are attempts to bridge these gaps with Apple’s Health App collating information from disparate app sources, but this is far from the comprehensive solution we are capable of. There have been advancements in EMR (electronic medical records) and EHR (electronic health records) but again we have a long way to go. As a patient, I should be able to carry the entirety of my medical records and my real-time collected data on my mobile device allowing me to provide it to any provider while it is kept up to date by new findings at that provider.
A big barrier to this is the stigma around health data. It can be used against an individual in some cases like insurance. Some fundamental changes are needed in the way health data is approached and treated to get maximum benefit.