The mHealth Grand Tour

On September 3rd a group of riders will set out on a gruelling road trip from Brussels to Geneva. This ride will last 9 days, will cover 1500km, including nearly 22,000m of ascent, as the riders traverse Europe. This unique group of riders, professional and amateur, have a single unifying goal–improving the lives of people with diabetes.

Globally 387 million people have diabetes–by 2035 this will rise to 592 million. Diabetes caused 4.9 million deaths in 2014 which means that every seven seconds a person dies from diabetes. The management of chronic diseases such as diabetes is costly. It is estimated that the global cost of the management of diabetes is an estimated US$612 billion in health expenditure (2014)–11% of total spending on adults. Mobile health solutions have the potential to help healthcare providers deliver better and more efficient healthcare, however these solutions are complex, requiring a number of technologies that can produce meaningful clinical data outside the hospital environment which can then be transmitted to the health professional.   

The mHealth Grand Tour is an “observational study”, developed to demonstrate how innovative products and technical solutions can help the challenges of managing diabetes. It provides an extraordinary and challenging environment for technology solution providers to test a range of technical solutions that provide personalised medical support to the riders. After the race is over, the data collected will be analysed as part of a retrospective observational study and the results will be shared before the end of 2015. 

ICON is proud to support two riders in the mHealth Grand Tour–Mr James O’Reilly and Mr Frans Luijendijk–both of whom have type 1 diabetes, and we will be following their  progress as they cycle the 1500km. Supporting this unparalleled event also allows us to work with technology partners who are experts in the area of diabetes management. Though our collaboration, we will gain unique insights into the technical, medical and regulatory challenges that are facing the development of mobile health solutions which will help us to design and fine tune a remotely monitored clinical trial in one of the most prevalent chronic disease areas affecting the world today. 

More importantly this tour gives ICON the opportunity to engage with the empowered patient who is using wearables and other technological advancements to monitor and manage their own health in a way that was not conceived of previously. Although it is widely accepted that the use of wearable technology in clinical trials has the potential to be one of the most disruptive innovations in drug development, currently the use of wearable technology by big pharma in clinical trials is limited and it would appear that we can learn a lot about the value and practical use of wearables from our patients.

When asked why this event was so important James responded: “I see my participation in the 2015 mHealth Grand Tour as a great opportunity for me to assist in the development of technical solutions that have the possibility to improve the quality of life of those living with chronic diseases worldwide.  As a Type 1 Diabetic, I myself am hugely reliant on technology to manage my disease. I use blood glucose metres to test my sugar levels multiple times a day. I wear an insulin pump to administer insulin 24 hours a day. I also use apps on my mobile telephone to help me count carbohydrates, calculate insulin dosages and log diaries of information. While the use of technology can greatly increase the  accuracy w ith which I can manage my Diabetes, the requirement to understand, use and care for all of these pieces of technology can also become a burden and a source of stress.  Studies such as the one that will be carried out during the health Grand Tour will lead to the development of further technical solutions that will reduce the mental effort required to manage this disease and the inherent burden that is living with Type 1 Diabetes. I look forward to a future where a patient centric approach is at the forefront of managing chronic diseases.”

Frans added that the more technology can take over managing this difficult disease, the easier it will become for him. “Anything we can do as patients to help advance technology, the faster fully automatic diabetes management solutions will be available. The difference the continuos glucose sensor already made to my life over the last three years is incredible. I can’t wait for a future where the only thing I need to do is change the cartridge of my insulin pump in time.”

We wish them both a successful tour as they embark on this ground breaking innovation journey which ICON anticipates will provide insights into the development of technological solutions that will help create more patient centric clinical trials.