Jennifer Turgiss, Dr.P.H.
Vice President, Behavior Science and Advanced Analytics
Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions
My colleague, Kris Sterkens, Company Group Chairman – Janssen Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), recently wrote an article titled, “The future of precision medicine.” In this article (definitely worth a read), Kris discusses how precision medicine enables a tailor-made treatment approach.
Personalized Digital Health Solutions Can Improve Health for More People
Precision medicine, which relates to treatment recommendations based on individual variability in regard to genetics, environment, and lifestyle, is rapidly moving from theory to practice with advances in medical science and technology. It has the potential to alleviate patient frustration, delays in health outcomes, and sometimes worsening of symptoms that may be a consequence of ‘trial and error’ approaches. Patients are provided with an evidence-based, best-practice treatment, which is then followed by a period of monitoring to see how each person responds. Some people will respond better than others, with effectiveness depending on the health condition being treated. One of the benefits of precision medicine may be to decrease variability across a population by expediting the right match between a treatment and an individual. The field of behavior science is also striving to achieve a similar gold-standard practice; matching the most effective behavior intervention strategies to the individual who is trying to accomplish something of value to them: whether it be becoming more physically active to better manage their diabetes, following a surgical care plan so they can return to activities they enjoy as quickly as possible, or losing weight to alleviate long-standing joint pain.
Digital health tools can help solve old or persistent problems in health and health care. Access to health interventions or health care support, for example, is an obstacle experienced by individuals living in rural areas or areas with less built environment resources. New technology tools can enable connection with more diverse and difficult to reach populations through the use of texting platforms, mobile health applications, and wearable tracking devices. These new solutions also capture individual-level health behavior data over time, allowing new and previously unavailable insight into these hard to reach populations. As more users engage with these solutions, they will evolve to be more personalized and relevant for all populations, leaving no one behind.
As Technology Costs Decrease More People Can be Served
Similar to the advancement in science and technology, new technology infrastructure and computing tools, such as big data systems and machine learning, are enabling new frontiers in precision medicine or personalized digital health. The technology infrastructure needed to support digital health systems may have been expensive in the past, but like the cost of mapping the human genome, which has steadily decreased over time, the cost of hardware, software, data storage and processing, is also steadily decreasing, making these types of solutions more likely to be available for more people.
Progress in computing capabilities, including machine learning, provide opportunities to gain new insight into these large data sets, enabling the emergence of patterns that would have been difficult to find using smaller data sets and older tools.
This progress enables the eventual retirement of ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions and ushers in a new era of personalized digital health interventions which have the potential to be more efficient. By cutting down on time and resource-consuming trial-and-error efforts and leveraging new insights gained from rich data, we can deliver more inclusive solutions that have a greater reach across populations, leaving no one behind. It’s an exciting time to be working in this space!
The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and not endorsed by Johnson & Johnson. I am currently Vice President of Behavior Science and Advanced Analytics with Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions.
Jennifer leads teams that work at the intersection of health behavior change and data science. She helps to build digital health behavior change interventions targeted toward the individual user (the patient or the consumer) and the health care provider.
As an applied scientist and practitioner in population health management, she spent a decade creating, measuring and optimizing wearable technologies and digital solutions to improve health and wellbeing in the employer market and holds two patents in this domain.
As a business executive, she worked in several health-related start-ups across the US, the UK, South Africa and Italy, where she learned to scale operations while adapting products and programs to meet the needs of the local cultures.