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  • Erik Janssen

The future of Neurology: Transforming patient value through the Integration of Technology

Unprecedented innovation in technology is rapidly revolutionising human life when it comes to healthcare.

From implementing artificial intelligence (AI), to using robotic nurse assistants, now more than ever healthcare companies are looking to advances in technology to aid their work in developing new treatments, to ultimately deliver better value to patients.

Health technology advances such as wearable devices which track a patients vital signs and monitor for symptoms, have the potential to vastly accelerate clinical development, and in turn advance how we prevent, diagnose early, monitor and potentially even cure severe diseases. And, increasingly we are seeing a convergence of pharmaceutical medicines and innovative technology, with the two combining to support patients in better managing their conditions. More and more, technology is being seen as a core component in the future delivery healthcare.

People with neurological conditions such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s each have their own individual journey. What works for one patient, does not necessarily work for all. In these types of neurological conditions, many influences come into play beyond the visible symptoms. A patient’s mood, their sleep patterns, even their diet, can influence their symptoms and their overall condition, and can make a positive contribution towards their quality of life.

A number of ‘smart’ technologies in the field of neurology have already been introduced into the market, with innovative devices being developed to track patient ailments in real time. For example, collaborative research programmes such as RADAR-CNS, which aims to explore the potential of wearable devices to predict and treat epilepsy. For Parkinson’s, software like GNLT’s data visualisation feedback tool, are examples of how technology is helping to revolutionising the daily lives of patients around the world. Through the convergence of science and technology, patients can be provided with assurance and peace of mind that their illness is being monitored remotely, by their doctor.

Delivering patient value to those with neurological conditions

There is still a way to go in areas such as diagnosis, access, disease control and social stigma when it comes to neurological conditions. Whilst epilepsy can be treated effectively with medication, 30 percent of patients still live with a daily fear of uncontrolled and unpredictable seizures. With Parkinson’s disease, non-motor symptoms, such as fatigue and gastrointestinal problems, are missed or misdiagnosed by neurologists in around 60 percent of consultations. As a result, people with these conditions are frequently mismanaged, resulting in a delay in treatment or prescription of suboptimal treatment – neither of which is helpful to the patient.

Another intriguing technological development is the ability for doctors to call upon real world data to determine which patients might best respond to a particular treatment approach. Platforms are being developed to draw on anonymised data from millions of patients over decades of individual records. The implementation of this type of technology within medicine can help doctors find the best-match treatment for patients based on the experiences of thousands of past cases, all accessible, in real-time, from a desktop or tablet.

Wearables however aren’t the only type of medical monitoring technology steaming ahead in the market. Blood-based biomarkers used to predict epileptic seizures, for example, have an exceedingly high accuracy in providing patients with real confirmation of seizure event. This method of monitoring not only reduces the risk of seizure activity, but can more importantly reduce the initial time to diagnose the illness. Other forms of digital biomarkers, for example, the voice-based technology platform from Sonde Health, use smartphones and wearables to monitor a patient’s response to treatments in their own home are being developed to transform patient lives.

New age treatment for neurological conditions

With ongoing development in technological fields such as artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning, companies are faced with great opportunity to improve their processes and products.

Large pharmaceutical companies are beginning this process by working with various technology companies – from start-ups to established organisations such as Verily - to create new and transformative developments in their fields. Through the right partnerships with digital technology specialists, pharma companies such as UCB are able to add patient value to a multitude of chronic conditions, neurological included.

Success will stem from technology companies adapting business models to allow the opportunity to collaborate and co-create with pharma organisations and other knowledge partners. From building relationships with institutions such as universities and research centres, as well as VCs and incubators, more ambitious, personalised, and preventive healthcare strategies and treatments can be developed for those seeking individual treatment.

The need for personalised treatment for neurological conditions is clear. With the influx of new innovative technologies, partnerships between pharma and technological corporations are the next logical step for this industry. We are witnessing immense potential for the digital and life sciences industries to come together and provide cures for many diseases. By blending next generation technologies with breakthrough medicines, sharing knowledge and expertise to ensure the rapid growth of scientific understanding and adopting an open approach to partnership building to establish access to the best innovation, outcomes and experiences for patients can be dramatically improved.

Erik Janssen, vice president Global New Patient Solutions Neurology at UCB, discusses how new technologies are helping patients with neurological conditions.

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