10 years. $1 billion. Patients who lack the time and money to wait while drug development trudges toward cures at a snail’s pace. Despite decades of medical advances, the speed with which we move new therapies from bench to bedside has barely budged.
Juxtapose that with our on-demand world of entertainment, food and self-driving cars, and there’s no question that drug development is an industry ripe for disruption.
But when lives are at stake, skimping on thorough research and rigorous clinical trials simply isn’t an option.
So, what’s it going to take to accelerate cures from scientists to patients?
Say hello to spencer.
The brainchild of Spencer Health Solutions’ team of veteran healthcare engineers and entrepreneurs, spencer is an in-home medication dispenser that is revolutionizing adherence from the comfort of patients’ homes. No more sorting or counting pills. Spencer’s connected care capabilities take the guesswork out of drug therapy, granting peace of mind to patients and caregivers, and keeping the spencer-certified pharmacist and participating members of the healthcare team informed with up-to-the-minute health data reporting.
To understand the enormity of Spencer’s potential in the drug development realm, it’s important to understand one of the industry’s most common barriers.
In a 2018 study published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, researchers discovered that “more than half of the nurses observed clinical trial nonadherence in their practices.” Among the most common causes were patients who forgot or refused to take their medications, a gap in caregiver support and poor communication. With research suggesting as many as 40% of patients fail to adhere to drug protocols after five months on study, the potential for disastrous outcomes ranging from inaccurate data to toxicity – not to mention the cost – skyrockets. (Alsumidaie, 2017)
“The reality is that if people aren’t taking their meds, it leads to an avalanche of healthcare issues and cost down the line,” said Spencer Health Solutions Founder and CEO Tom Rhoads.
Better Data and More of It
While optimizing medication adherence is key to clinical trial success, it’s equally important to capture useful health data and insights and keep patients engaged outside of their doctor visits.
“spencer shows great promise for clinical research,” says Alan Menius, Chief Data Scientist for Spencer Health Solutions. “spencer drives medication adherence and adds the ability to gather unique patient insights, resulting in decreased total clinical trials cost and additional real-world evidence.”
Myriad social determinants impact a patient’s health, and spencer makes it easy for patients to gather and track that information in real time. Rather than forcing patients to rely on memory to complete diaries at home or questionnaires in the doctor’s office, spencer gathers the important aspects of a patient’s health in a way that’s only possible if you’re – as Rhoads says – “walking with patients every day in their home.”
spencer can monitor, record and report everything from blood pressure to blood sugar levels when connected to Bluetooth-enabled health monitoring devices ,alerting patients and loved ones when a dose has been missed, and even delivering reminders and messages of support to help keep patients on track. From the perspective of a clinical research organizations (CRO) or pharmaceutical company, spencer makes it easy to collect that information.
“As wearables and technology become more abundant, we’re finding passive ways we can collect that information without burdening the patient,” Menius said.
Spencer Health Solutions intends to drive trial retention by putting more actionable patient data into the hands of CROs and pharma sooner and more consistently than ever before. Rhoads believes this unique opportunity to engage with patients before they disengage with the trial will ultimately lead to higher adherence and fewer overpopulated studies. His goal is to become an empathetic, smart, integral part of the CRO team in the next decade, “engaging with individuals in the home and providing material insights back upstream so that we can have a dramatic impact on the trial itself – from length, cost, time and outcomes.”
Alexa, Siri, Meet spencer
After helping his own father navigate a challenging series of health problems, Rhoads speaks from personal experience when he says the inspiration behind spencer was to design “a platform that quickly and seamlessly integrates into patients’ lifestyle, that walks beside them to help them manage through a scary time.” This is why designing spencer to be both aligned with patients’ daily lives and seen as a valuable partner in their health journey was absolutely critical.
Research shows that the greater support a patient has, the more likely she is to remain medication-compliant. But not every patient has – or wants – a caregiver in the home. To reinforce spencer’s supportive nature, his designers created a friendly, helpful “personality,” much like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. The team is driven to develop new ways for patients and caregivers to interact with spencer as part of the care team, with the same goal of keeping them at home for as long as possible. Says Rhoads, “spencer needs to be not only a really valuable tool that manages the meds, manages all the questions and answers to diagnose them and keep them on path and on therapy, but it also needs to empathize with them.”
Contact us to learn more about how spencer can help your team eliminate barriers, increase engagement and speed up the pace of life-saving drug development.
Becky Schieber is a freelance writer, editor, and communication strategist. She spent more than a decade as a TV news producer before building a career in healthcare fundraising and corporate social responsibility. Currently, she works with clients in engineering, healthcare and biosciences research.