Biogen’s New App Will Create the Waiting Room of the Future for Potential MS Patients
Mobile technology is having a severely disruptive impact on the healthcare industry, and Biogen is harnessing it to revolutionise neurological assessments for multiple sclerosis (MS).
Biogen was founded in Geneva in 1978, with two of its cofounders going on to win nobel prizes for breakthroughs in chemistry and medicine. Today, Biogen is one of the largest biotechnology companies in the world and employs over 7,000 people. The company has revenues of $11,449 million and holds the #248 spot on the Fortune 500.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease which causes the sufferer’s immune system to attack the myelin coating on the axons of their neurons. The degradation of this substance causes the flow of electrical impulses between the brain and the rest of the body to be disrupted and can result in many problems, including memory, focus, bowl and bladder control, mood changes, numbness, tingling, balance, coordination, vision, muscle pain, and temperature regulation.
One of the main issues MS sufferers face when they seek treatment for their illness is during the assessment process. While formal tests do exist to assess MS patients, they are normally only applied during clinical trials and research, rather than in clinical practice. Instead, neurologists tend to qualitatively assess patients during a clinical exam, which can lead to huge variations in process depending on which location a patient is seen in.
"Some clinicians get their patients to do the 9-hole peg test (to measure hand function), others may go for the 25-foot walk test,” said Dr Jay Alberts, PhD, of the Biogen Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. “Few doctors would do all the tests all the time. These are pieces and parts that people are interested in for evaluating function.”
It was with these inconsistencies in neurological assessment procedures in mind that Biogen created the Multiple Sclerosis Performance Test (MSPT), an iPad-based neurological assessment tool. The mobile technology empowered test is designed to standardise assessment procedures, increase the internal and external reliability of the resultant data, and engage patients in a way which helps them feel more involved in the process.
"Usually in waiting rooms patients sit around and read magazines," said Dr Alberts. "But this is the waiting room of the future. The platform of tests is integrated into the clinical appointment. Everyone does it and that allows us to have systemic objective data and rapidly include that in clinical decision making. Patients may have to be talked through how to do the tests the first time but actually they should be able to do them themselves."
The MSPT keeps a record of structured history, patient-reported outcomes, and past neurological assessments, and allows patients to self-administer the assessment tests, with the assistance of a clinician where necessary. The app’s dashboard allows for a summary of the available data to be visualised at a glance by clinicians, and printing functionality enables for the generation of hard-copy reports. If a more detailed view is required, clinicians can select individual data points and focus on them.
Data is uploaded to a secure cloud storage solution enabling it to be accessed from any other authorised institution using the technology – allowing patients to painlessly relocate their treatment to a new area following a house move. The data can also be anonymously added to a bank of knowledge to help support research and future treatment decisions for sufferers around the whole world.
"The patient and provider will be using the same data and be on the same page," said Dr Alberts. "The neurologist can actually look at the patient's data, which will automatically be shared with them and [they will] see instantly which functions are improving or deteriorating."
Mobile technology is helping transform the clinical experience for patients all over the world. With it’s new iPad tool, Biogen is empowering clinicians and MS sufferers to improve assessment and treatment pathways.
The final word goes to Dr Jay Alberts.
"With our system, patients undergo self-testing before they see the neurologist. This is not really about technology; it's more about people and integrating technology into clinical work flows to enhance clinical evaluation, work flow, and patient experience."