Searching for the “Sweet Spot” of Innovation

Apps and wearables such as smartwatches are useful for tracking athletic performance or an active lifestyle. They also have the potential to improve how patients monitor and manage their disease, enabling a more autonomous life. Together with the development of diagnostic tests and innovative medicines, Roche is now focusing on a third strategic pillar: data and digital health solutions.

is a rare, hereditary neuromuscular disease that leads to muscle weakness and might impair other body functions. The progressive muscle weakness, particularly in swallowing or breathing, significantly affects the quality of life and well-being of those affected.

Currently, regular tests in a physician’s office or clinic are required for the general care of patients and for monitoring muscle functionality. The Roche Digital Health team aims to facilitate access to innovative digital solutions for everyone involved: patients, doctors, and healthcare professionals. In this context, a key aspect is the assessment of every single patient by using innovative, non-invasive digital solutions that can be used even remotely, in the patient’s own home.

Answering three central questions helps Roche colleagues define the innovation process and drive implementation:

  • Desirability: What need could a digital tool fill for patients? What added value can be created? 

  • Feasibility: How can these needs be translated into a technological solution? What kind of health data and scientific insights are needed? 

  • Viability: Is it possible to construct a sustainable business model around this solution?

The insights of external experts and patient partnerships are crucial to develop a patient-oriented digital health solution. Since the beginning and during the development of the solution, Roche has worked with an external scientific advisory board to address these questions. The board includes patient advocacy groups, healthcare professionals and therapeutic area experts in the field of SMA. Together, potential solutions for important patient functions in SMA such as speaking, swallowing and breathing are being addressed and discussed.

The Roche Digital Health team has identified a small non-invasive sensor that may be applied to the throat for intermittent use. The sensor captures information about the swallowing, breathing, and speech patterns of an individual patient and transmits the data to an app. 

Today, the only possible way to accurately capture this data is with invasive tests. By collecting relevant information already in the patient’s home, the physician or other healthcare professionals can obtain a comprehensive and detailed picture of their patient that reflects their everyday experience. This may help detect abnormalities in the disease progression earlier and optimise patient care.

The Roche Digital Health team coordinates the project and ensures that it aligns with the goals of Roche: introduce data and digital health solutions for individual patient care, empowering them to live autonomous daily lives, while reducing costs and redundancies in the healthcare system.

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