Treatments for multiple sclerosis have advanced rapidly in the last decade thanks to both biological and technological breakthroughs. However, there are still opportunities for improvement in treating and managing this disease, which affects around 2.1 million people worldwide, according to NIH.
One area that has only recently seen growth in the MS space is the use of connected devices. As with the treatment of many other chronic diseases, the use of medical software and connected devices in MS has the potential to revolutionize how we manage this disease.
Below, we’ll look at the benefits that come with using connected devices, how this approach is currently being used in MS treatment, and what opportunities still exist for innovative MedTech companies.
Overview of Current MS Treatments
Current treatments for multiple sclerosis predominantly consist of disease-modifying therapies (MDTs). These therapies help reduce the risk of relapse, help to prevent the accumulation of new plaques in the central nervous system, and slow the progression of the disease.
DMTs are currently available in three forms: injectables, oral medications, and intravenous treatments. Injectable medications work as interferons to decrease inflammation, increase nerve growth, or otherwise “interfere” with how the disease functions. The oral medications currently approved to treat MS include many interferon-type drugs and those used to reduce relapse rates and slow the progression of secondary-progressive forms. A small handful of intravenous treatments, largely monoclonal antibodies, have been approved for the treatment of both secondary and primary progressive forms of the disease.
Other drugs and treatment regimes used for MS patients include symptomatic therapies, physical rehabilitation, and lifestyle approaches.
Connected Devices in MS Treatment
Connected devices represent another treatment option for MS patients. These devices are largely utilized to collect data and help patients adhere to lifestyle and wellness therapies. Some newer approaches, such as neurological stimulation, utilize connected devices to slow the progression of the disease or reverse damage.
While these treatments represent only a small fragment of the current MS treatment landscape, the benefits they bring make it very likely that connected devices will play a much larger role in the future of MS management.
Benefits of Utilizing Connected Devices
Connected devices leverage technology to provide real-time data and insights, enabling better management of MS and improved quality of life for those living with the condition. Here, we discuss some of the most important benefits of connected devices in MS treatment.
Connected devices allow healthcare providers to remotely monitor a patient’s health status. This is particularly useful for individuals with MS, as the disease’s symptoms can be unpredictable. Continuous monitoring of vital signs, mobility, and other relevant metrics can help detect changes early in order to adjust treatment plans accordingly.
Connected devices can collect and track data over time, providing a comprehensive view of a patient’s health trends. This information can be valuable during medical appointments, helping both patients and healthcare providers make informed decisions about treatment adjustments or interventions.
By analyzing the data collected from connected devices, healthcare professionals can tailor treatment plans to each patient’s unique needs. This personalized approach can lead to more effective symptom management and a better overall treatment experience.
Changes in symptoms or health metrics can be detected earlier through continuous monitoring, allowing for prompt intervention. For example, if a patient’s mobility declines, a healthcare provider can recommend adjustments to prevent further deterioration.
Connected devices can include reminders and alerts for medication schedules. Adherence to medication regimens is crucial in managing MS symptoms and preventing relapses, and these reminders can help patients stay on track.
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
Some connected devices are designed to assist with physical therapy exercises and rehabilitation programs. These devices can guide patients through exercises, track progress, and provide feedback to ensure proper technique and engagement.
Reduced Hospital Visits
Regular remote monitoring can reduce the need for frequent in-person medical visits, especially for routine check-ups. This can be particularly beneficial for patients with mobility challenges or those who live in remote areas.
Improved Patient Engagement
Connected devices empower patients to take an active role in managing their health. They can view their own data, set goals, and track progress, fostering a sense of empowerment and motivation. Some mobile device applications allow users to connect with the larger MS community and track their performance against that of others as a way to increase motivation.
Quality of Life Improvement
By enabling more effective management of symptoms and early intervention, connected devices can contribute to an improved quality of life for individuals with MS. Better symptom control and fewer exacerbations can enhance daily functioning and overall well-being. Connection with other patients across mobile apps helps reduce feelings of isolation that are common in those suffering from chronic disease.
Research and Insights
Aggregated and anonymized data from connected devices can contribute to medical research and help researchers better understand the patterns and progression of MS. This can potentially lead to advancements in treatment strategies and interventions.
While still largely underused in MS treatment and management, there are some notable connected device applications currently available in this field.
Many of these devices are used to reduce the symptoms of the disease. One noninvasive neurotherapy option currently used is transcranial direct current stimulation. Studies have shown that MS patients who use this connected device therapy experience less fatigue, depression, and pain(1).
Transcranial direct current stimulation devices (TDCSD) have also shown a potential to improve brain and memory function in MS patients. In one study, patients trained with TDCSD scored better on brain training games and had significantly faster response times than those who did not receive the training. This improvement only increased with the number of training sessions received(2).
Another area of MS treatment that has been improved by the use of connected devices is medication adherence in patients on injectable medications. These valuable drugs are capable of slowing the progression of the disease, but administering them correctly and on a consistent schedule is difficult, especially for patients suffering from motor impairment and needle phobia. Autoinjectors—special connected devices that automatically administer subcutaneous medications—have been proven to help patients stick to treatment plans to see better results. Mobile applications connected to these smart devices allow patients to adjust their dose as needed and track their dosing history(3).
Despite a wide range of potential benefits, most connected devices used in MS treatment are utilized to track movement and activity levels in patients. Here, these devices have proven advantages over traditional means.
By employing uniaxial accelerometers, pedometers, and multisensor systems, wearable devices can easily track activity levels and patterns in MS patients. This information can be delivered in real-time to healthcare teams to help inform treatment decisions and monitor the effect of new medications and therapies(4).
These devices and their connected applications often include reminders, alerts, and goal-setting functionality to help increase physical activity in the wearer. Some are gamified or connected to larger patient communities to encourage participation and increase motivation(5).
MS and Connected Devices: Future Opportunities
The use of connected devices in MS treatment, while advancing, is still relatively limited compared to the potential they hold. This means that medical technology companies have several opportunities to develop and provide connected devices that cater to the specific needs of individuals with MS and enhance their treatment experience.
Here are some potential areas of opportunity:
- Disease Progression Tracking – Mobility impairment is an important measurement of disease progression in multiple sclerosis. Multi-sensor wearable devices have the potential to track mobility impairment outside the clinic, alerting healthcare teams to changes in disease progression using real-time data and remote monitoring. Beyond mobility, wearables have the potential to monitor other key health metrics such as heart rate, temperature, and sleep patterns. These devices could provide data to both patients and healthcare providers, enabling early detection of changes in symptoms and better management of the disease.
- Telemedicine and Virtual Consultations – Frequent communication between patient and doctor is imperative for positive outcomes in MS. MedTech companies can create platforms and devices that facilitate virtual doctor-patient interactions. This could include video conferencing tools specifically designed for MS-related consultations, allowing patients to discuss their symptoms, concerns, and treatment plans remotely.
- Medication Management – Companies can improve on the precedent set by autoinjectors to increase medication adherence for patients on oral meds. This could be done by building smart pill dispensers or medication reminder devices that help individuals with MS adhere to their medication schedules. These devices could send reminders, dispense medications at the appropriate times, and track adherence over time.
- Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Tools – Physical therapy is an important aspect of MS management. By developing connected devices that guide patients through tailored physical therapy exercises and rehabilitation routines, MedTech companies can enable patients to complete their physical therapy without leaving their homes. These devices could use sensors and feedback mechanisms to ensure proper technique while tracking progress.
- Mobility and Assistive Devices – The lives of MS patients could be significantly improved through the development of smart mobility aids such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs with built-in sensors that monitor the user’s movements and provide assistance as needed. These devices could also help prevent falls by providing alerts or stabilization features.
- Cognitive Function Monitoring – Piggybacking on the use of TDCSD and other neurological devices, MedTech companies could design devices that assess and track cognitive function for individuals with MS in a non-invasive way. These devices could also offer cognitive exercises and provide insights to patients and healthcare providers.
- Data Integration Platforms – As connected devices become more common in MS therapy, there will be a greater need for platforms that integrate data from various connected devices, wearable sensors, and health apps. This centralized approach can offer a comprehensive view of a patient’s health status, facilitating better decision-making by healthcare providers.
- Personalized Treatment Algorithms – By leveraging AI and Machine Learning, developers can create software algorithms that analyze data collected from connected devices to recommend personalized treatment adjustments. For instance, an algorithm could suggest modifications to medication dosages based on changes in symptom patterns.
- Data Security and Privacy Solutions – As data privacy is a significant concern in healthcare, there’s an opportunity to develop robust security solutions that protect patient data collected by connected devices and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.
- Patient Engagement Apps – Innovative software companies can create mobile apps that empower patients with MS to actively participate in their treatment plans. These apps could connect to activity and symptom monitoring wearables and provide tools for setting goals, accessing educational content, and connecting with others living with the disease.
When developing connected devices for MS treatment, it’s crucial for MedTech companies to involve individuals with MS, caregivers, and healthcare professionals in the design and testing process. This ensures that the devices effectively address real-world needs and challenges faced by the MS community. Additionally, staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in technology, medical research, and regulatory requirements is essential for success in this field.
The Future of MS Treatment
In the evolving landscape of multiple sclerosis treatment, the integration of connected devices presents an unprecedented opportunity for innovation and impact. As MedTech companies explore avenues to develop new solutions for the MS community, the potential benefits of connected devices cannot be overstated. By focusing on remote monitoring, personalized treatment, and improved patient engagement, these devices have the power to revolutionize how individuals with MS manage their condition.
As MedTech pioneers, the path ahead is both promising and rewarding. By harnessing the capabilities of connected devices, we have the chance to make a lasting impact on the lives of individuals with MS, offering them greater autonomy, more effective treatments, and a supportive community. But, as with the development of any medical device, there are many challenges MedTech companies must overcome, including meeting regulatory requirements, creating interoperable products, and producing highly useful and flexible connected applications.
Sequenex has the experience and know-how to help innovative medical device companies find their place in the future of MS treatment. We understand what opportunities exist in treating and managing this chronic condition. We also know what it takes to design, develop, and build an effective, safe, and marketable connected device in a world where technology is advancing faster than it can be built. If you need an experienced partner to help develop your software or device for multiple sclerosis treatment, connect with us today.