Smart watches and smart scales aren’t just useful for counting steps or cutting calories. If you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), these devices can help build a community with others in a similar position.
Actavis’s Consumer Solutions and Global Customer Insights team set out to test whether connected devices could drive improvements in health and deliver a greater sense of control over the condition. The result was the company’s first MS patient connected health study and a blueprint for future investment in digital health.
The team selected three technologies: a smart watch to track activity, a sleep system to measure the duration and quality of sleep, and a smart scale to capture changes in weight and body composition.
The approach yielded some unexpected insights. Because of the way the study was set up, participants could interact with each other. As one of the team members observed, “There became a sense of community-building where people would help each other out. Genuine relationships started to form amongst folks who had never met each other and lived in different parts of the country. It was fascinating to see.”
Identifying the right partners
Traditionally, this type of research would be carried out as a clinical trial, but the team knew that this would cost millions of dollars, with the recruitment of participants alone taking months to complete. Actavis came up with a commercial approach, exploring overall usability of the devices in the context of a specific patient population.
Identifying an external party who was as engaged as the global team was critical. Actavis developed a relationship with the team at Withings (now owned by Nokia) who helped with the devices and the analytics of the data collected, as well as the team at C Space Health who were able to get the participants and help drive engagement levels.
C Space Health was flexible to work with. At the Actavis team’s request, they created an online community portal for the participants. This enabled the team to explore the context of the data they were collecting, ensuring that the learnings of the study could be acted upon in the future. They also carried out a detailed learning plan based around regular activities and surveys to help them understand people’s experience with smart devices, including their views on what made a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ MS day and their general feelings about wellness.
The benefits of objective data
After five months of engagement, the study’s participants shared their views. What Actavis heard at the end of the day from patients was that they felt like they had more line of sight over their disease, because they were provided with objective data that they typically would never see before.
For Actavis, the study uncovered valuable insights into the opportunities provided by digital health and other non-drug interventions, paving the way for future investment and exploration.
As an example, the Actavis team learned that while typical fitness trackers sit on a person’s wrist, people with MS often have stability issues, so when they walk they might be using a walker or holding the hand of a wife or husband. When this is the case, their arm is not swinging so the tracker is not picking up steps. Clearly, when creating wearables for this patient population, the devices need to be better customized.
Making patients feel better
The research carried out will inform future solutions for the Global MS Brand Team. It has also uncovered insights that could be relevant to the many other chronic conditions that Actavis supports. The bigger initiative is helping people to feel better.NPS-ALL-NP-00015 MAY 2018