Monitoring Clinical Research Data from Wearable Solutions
HealthBlocks enables patient participation in Johns Hopkins clinical research studies that use wearable devices to remotely and securely collect biological and biochemical signal data.
HealthBlocks is a digital platform designed and developed by the Johns Hopkins Technology Innovation Center (TIC) in partnership with Microsoft to provide a seamless and more automated onboarding experience for patients. The centralized dashboard management tool helps research study coordinators increase their efficiency and follow-through.
The traditional way of running clinical studies is time-consuming and inefficient for both the research study coordinator and study participant. Recruiting, consenting, enrolling, and monitoring participants’ activities during a clinical study requires the coordinator to use a mix of stand-alone software tools to keep track of patients’ onboarding and study engagement. They spend hours daily checking participants’ activity, manually logging into device accounts and individually notifying those who forgot to wear or sync their wearable devices or complete their study tasks. Each month, coordinators can spend several days per study — depending on the number of participants — downloading and consolidating stored wearable device data and preparing it for researchers at Johns Hopkins.
For participants, the noise of study information, notifications, and instructions can overwhelm. This discourages consented patients from continuing their participation, despite initial interest in wanting to help themselves or the greater research goals.
HealthBlocks integrates remote patient monitoring, medical wearables, and study management in one place. The platform includes a dashboard to streamline research operations for the study coordinators, a native mobile application designed to keep participants engaged over the course of the research study, and Microsoft technology that transforms device data into a research-ready industry standard format called FHIR.
The TIC used a human-centered design process for the platform, interviewing research coordinators, data scientists, and researchers from various Johns Hopkins departments for feedback. The goal was to create an intuitive product for users in every situation with any level of technical skill.
After testing and receiving feedback, Microsoft collaborated with the TIC, translating the designs for platform development. The TIC and Microsoft worked closely together during six agile development sprints to create the platform.
The quick, user-centered collaboration between the TIC and Microsoft created an automated, simplified, and transparent tool that enables coordinators to get out of the weeds of study management and into the higher value research forest.
“HealthBlocks is a state-of-the-art and cloud-first platform that was designed by, and built for, the clinical research teams and participants. Harnessing the collective energy, excitement, and subject matter expertise from Johns Hopkins and Microsoft, together, we developed the digital fundament for HealthBlocks leveraging the latest Azure Healthcare APIs, such as the FHIR API and the IoMT Connector.”
— Dr. Mustafa Al-Durra
WW Healthcare Industry Architect — Microsoft
The HealthBlocks minimum viable product (MVP) is currently in the user testing phase. While the MVP currently only integrates Fitbit, once fully operational, it will be a device-agnostic solution to support other wearable devices such as Omron (BP and scale), ActiGraph, GoSprio, etc. and cover most clinical workflows.
HealthBlocks is one stop for all the study management needs: Coordinators can create studies, add participants, and set up devices on one platform. Additionally, they can create and manage notifications and reminders to be sent to the participants through their preferred channel of communication and monitor their activities on the dashboard.*
HealthBlocks also creates an easier onboarding experience: Study participants will use the HealthBlocks mobile application to get started by logging in to the app using their MyChart credentials. They can review study details and instructions from the convenience of the mobile app as an alternative to reliance on the study coordinator. Additionally, participants can configure their preferred communication channel (via SMS or email) in the app to get reminder notifications and ongoing encouragement.
The automation, simplification, and transparency of the HealthBlocks dashboard enable study coordinators to focus on higher-value activities.
“Remotely collected data is the future of medicine, but collecting, accessing, and managing that data can be time consuming and challenging. Because of these barriers, my research group [worked with our Precision Medicine team at Johns Hopkins and Microsoft] to develop a proof-of-concept application to reduce the time required to monitor participant compliance, to automate the access to the data collected, and to streamline the management of data. By addressing these barriers, researchers can capitalize on the power of remotely collected data, leading to the implementation of these approaches into healthcare.”
— Maggie French, PT, DPT, PhD, NCS
Shiekh Khalifa Stroke Institute Research Fellow
Johns Hopkins Medicine
*For researchers, device data is accessible through the Precision Medicine Analytics Platform (PMAP) with a case identifier and transformed into FHIR, which makes their research process more convenient.