In December, the U.S. government spending bill for 2016 raised the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget to $32.1 billion, its largest increase in 12 years. The majority of this budget is used for medical research designed to help treat or find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and much more.

It’s an incredible task, and while the money is a starting point, the drugs and treatments resulting from the clinical trials behind the research are where the true benefits will ultimately be realized.

However, getting these potential drugs to market quickly and effectively can be a challenge. A typical clinical trial can take as long as four years to complete and, in the end, only about 25 percent to 30 percent of treatments completed in a trial period are approved by the FDA for mass use.

Not only do clinical trials take time, but they also take a toll on patients, even beyond just the side effects of a drug. For example, these trials require patients to make countless trips to the doctor’s office or spend extended periods in a hospital, all so their reactions and symptoms can be closely monitored. Doctors and nurses then need to collect data on each patient and track the results, but this can be tedious when running trials of the same drugs across various countries and hospitals.

This is where the adoption on Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices in healthcare make the clinical process easier for patients. Connected devices are becoming a part of everyday life, and wearable health gadgets are some of the most popular devices. In fact, 56 percent of U.S. adults want the ability to monitor their health with devices that automatically connect and send information to healthcare providers.

This has led to a 47 percent increase in the adoption of IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) solutions in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries since 2014. IoT solutions are some of the key technologies that are enhancing the effectiveness of clinical studies, and ultimately making it easier to develop innovative treatment plans for patients.

IoT connected devices can provide clinical patients with the opportunity to be monitored and even treated in their homes. This not only improves quality of life for patients, but it also frees up face-to-face appointment time at hospitals and treatment centers for acute cases.

In clinical trials, connected devices can be used to:

Check whether patients are taking their medication at the right time and the right dosage; and/or remind them to do so.

Monitor long-term trends in patients’ conditions using a combination of physiological measures and patient reported outcomes, including evaluating progress toward agreed patient goals.

Verify whether any medical equipment in the patient’s home requires maintenance.

Clinicians remotely collect data from mobile devices that transmit readings from patients, which can provide doctors and nurses a comprehensive record at any time.

Tracking and analyzing clinical data from trials is critically important. With access to the data, healthcare providers can track patients’ progress, learn how a specific drug is working and recommend potential adjustments in treatment as needed. However, clinical trials might be conducted with hundreds of patients across various countries, so it’s important for doctors and nurses to have a centralized database of treatment results.

IoT solutions play a large role in collecting the data from patients as they go through a trial, and healthcare leaders can leverage IoT software to ensure all the collected data is centralized in one database. Today, the bulk of global medical research is still logged through error-prone and costly paper diaries, making it a struggle for trial participants and clinical sites to report critical data quickly and reliably.

Instead of scheduling individual appointments, doctors can track patient feedback and symptoms in real time with IoT devices, which can be fed back automatically into the database for review, reporting and quick comparison.

Technology advancements will play an important role in any newly discovered treatment. Through IoT implementation of sensors and remote monitoring devices, healthcare providers can ultimately monitor the potential of clinical trials in real time while also improving patient care and quality of life. Clinical trials and research are leading the future of medication, and innovative IoT health care solutions can play a major role in how these trials are conducted.

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