Kantar Health Blog

Leveraging the Quantified Self Movement for Patient Insights

by Brian Mondry | Mar 5, 2014
Brian Mondry

With the current influx of affordable, non-intrusive wearable technology, the Quantified Self movement is fast approaching its tipping point into the mainstream, if it hasn’t gotten there already.

The Quantified Self movement, which is basically the use of technology to acquire data on multiple aspects of a person’s daily life, has been gathering steam for quite some time. Now that a myriad of individual vendors, consumer and pharmaceutical brands have invested heavily in the space, the technology is small and cheap enough to be accessible to the masses. I have read studies that project that around 485 million wearable devices will be shipped worldwide by 2015. And beyond wearable technology, the number of “things” connected to the Internet will be over 50 billion by 2020! You only need to read news items such as Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of Nest to see that the “Internet of Things” is right around the corner. Of course, these “things” can and will track relevant, health-related activities such as sleep and eating patterns, coffee consumption, movement activity within a household, toilet usage and so on.

People likely will be able to opt out of certain types of data tracking and collection. However, if the providers of these products/services can tie in the health and wellness benefits of the Quantified Self movement to get as many people as possible to opt in, then companies will soon be collecting massive troves of aggregated data that will make what is currently being collected seem minuscule in comparison. The term “Big Data” will hardly suffice.

This movement will transform healthcare as we know it and permeate every nook and cranny of the healthcare ecosystem. At Kantar Health we are actively exploring how we might use this type of data to best advise our pharmaceutical clients on business and marketing issues throughout all stages of a drug’s lifecycle.

The type of biometric data we can collect passively through wearable technology now encompasses things such as blood pressure and heart rate, blood glucose, weight, energy expenditure, fat ratio, sleep patternsand more. This passively collected data, when combined with patient-reported data such as mood levels, stress levels, energy levels, food and drink intake, medication tracking and exercise activity, can provide us with a 360-degree view of patients that has, in the past, been mostly elusive.

Now just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we should. We need to be sure we can use this data to provide true value for our clients. There is much to gain for patients, physicians and payers by looking at biometric data in isolation, but we can learn much more by combining it with other datasets. Here are some topline examples of what we can do:

  1. For primary patient research, we can minimize survey length and improve quality/accuracy of data. The passive biometric data we collect is far more accurate than manually reported biometric data and allows the actual survey questions to focus more on why patients behave in certain ways as well as their perceived mental and physical states of well-being.
  2. Analyze biometric data along with patient-reported outcome data across various phases of clinical trials
  3. Gather rich insights into medication compliance, adherence and efficacy
  4. Enhance patient segmentation studies by fusing real behavior and lifestyle data
  5. Longitudinally track patients’ conditions, attitudes, behaviors and biometrics over longer periods of time. Current longitudinal studies are difficult to execute due to participant attrition. But because these types of longitudinal studies require participants to join the Quantified Self movement, if they haven’t already, they are reaping benefits far beyond whatever financial incentives they are getting for their input. Plus, because so much of the necessary data is collected passively rather than manually, it is much easier for patients to participate.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. We will certainly uncover more real-world applications for this type of data aggregation. Bottom line: the Quantified Self movement is only going to grow. Wearable technology may soon be the ultimate medium for generating pharmaceutical-related marketing insights that will inform business decisions in the healthcare space. 


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