By collecting data on MS patients’ activities and abilities, parent company Roche Group hopes to create new drugs and diagnostics to combat this deadly disease

Biotechnology company Genentech, a subsidiary of multinational pharmaceutical/diagnostics company Roche Holdings AG, has developed a smartphone application (app) that enables patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) to monitor and track their illness in real-time and provide data and insight to their doctors.

Clinical laboratories may be able to help in the collection, storing, analysis, and reporting of the data obtained by the app. Dark Daily has reported on many mobile health apps that provided medical laboratories with similar opportunities going back to 2010.

Till now, those innovations mostly came from healthcare developers and providers looking to leverage big data for precision medicine and telemedicine. However, big pharmaceutical companies also are developing ways customers can use smartphones to track their chronic conditions and medication usage.

Seeing the ‘Big Picture’ in Chronic Disease

Smartphone applications (AKA, mobile apps) continue to find their way into the hands of healthcare providers, patients with chronic diseases, and active people who want to monitor their health goals. Clinical laboratories have many opportunities to provide services to physicians and health networks leveraging mHealth at the point-of-care and in rural or resource-strapped regions.

Genentech’s “Floodlight” mobile app, which can be downloaded for free from Apple’s iTunes app store, is part of Floodlight Open, a global MS study that hopes to “understand the effects of MS on mental and physical functioning in a real-world setting.”

The data collected enables researchers to “see ‘big picture’ trends in the data that could help improve understanding of the disease and how it may lead to disability over time,” notes Genentech’s website.

Floodlight enables MS patients with smartphones to monitor the progression of their illness by measuring mobility, hand motor function, and cognition. Its passive self-monitoring also helps patients understand fluctuations in their condition. 

To join the study, patients must download the free Floodlight app (shown above) and read and sign the consent form. They then can begin performing the simple tasks described in the app to self-monitor their MS symptoms and disease progression. All data collected is anonymized and shared with the Floodlight Open online community, physicians, and scientists. (Photo copyright: Bloomberg/Marthe Fourcade.)

People using the app can choose to automatically share their personal information with their physicians via a private ID number. 

The tasks MS patients are asked to perform via the app include:

  • Matching symbols to measure how quickly the patient processes information;
  • Squeezing a tomato on the screen to measure motor skills and any changes in hand-eye coordination;
  • Drawing shapes to measure speed and accuracy of hand and finger movements;
  • Performing a U-turn while walking to discern ability to change direction;
  • Completing a two-minute walk to measure stamina and mobility; and,
  • Standing still for 30 seconds to measure posture, balance, and stability.

“I am particularly excited about these ways that we can potentially advance the understanding of MS. We hope that this investigation will get the field closer to realizing this better understanding of MS for both patients and providers,” Laura Julian, PhD, Principal Medical Science Director at Genentech, told Multiple Sclerosis News Today. Click here to view the video above and learn more about Floodlight Open and the technology behind it. (Photo copyright: Neurology Live.)

There are currently more than 400 MS patients using the Floodlight app. Genentech hopes to enroll 10,000 patients in the program within the next five years. Among the current Floodlight users, there is a 76.5% adherence to the active tests and an 83.2% adherence to passive monitoring, such as walking and mobility throughout the day.

When questioned about their satisfaction with the app, study participants gave it a good to excellent rating of a 73.3 average out of 100 possible points.

Other mHealth Apps

Mobile health applications are becoming a preferred way for diagnostics developers to gather data for their research. Many apps similar to Floodlight are currently in development or available for free download.

One such example is FocalView by Novartis. It enables ophthalmological patients to remotely participate in clinical trials, track data about their ocular diseases, and share that information with their physicians. The app was designed to assess visual function, visual acuity, and contrast sensitivity in patients.

Another is Quitter’s Circle, a mobile app developed by Pfizer and the American Lung Association to help individuals quit smoking. The online support community currently has over 165,000 members and offers tips, information, resources, and live conversations for those interested in smoking cessation.

Applications for mHealth are gaining in popularity with both patients and healthcare providers. As the medical community strives to provide more personalized medicine and improve patient outcomes, the data obtained through real-time monitoring can assist doctors and medical laboratory professionals work together to determine the best treatment options for individual patients with chronic diseases.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Roche Turns to App in Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis

Floodlight Open

Roche Turns to App in Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis

Roche’s “Floodlight” a Multiple Sclerosis Game Changer

Better MS Monitoring and Disease Understanding Among Goals of Floodlight Open

Novartis launches FocalView App, Providing Opportunity for Patients to Participate in Ophthalmology Clinical Trials from Home

New Online Community, Quitter’s Circle, Helps Smokers Trade Cigarettes for Real-time Support

Essenlix Builds Mobile Technology Device That Performs CBC Tests Attached to a Smartphone

New Insertable Cardiac Monitor Released by Abbott Laboratories Enables Patients to Share Collected Data with Anatomic Pathologists and Clinical Laboratories Through Bluetooth Enable Smartphones