Bioanalysis Zone

Interview with Shane Needham (Alturas Analytics) on point-of-care objective monitoring of disease by patients

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shane needhamCould you detail any medical conditions that can currently be monitored, objectively, by patients?

Several medical conditions are currently monitored at home, for example, diabetes, where the diabetic monitors the level of glucose in their blood. High blood pressure and bipolar disorder are two other examples. People suffering from bipolar disorder, who are treated with a therapeutic of lithium, now have access to hand-held personalized monitoring devices, which will measure the amount of lithium in the blood. Lithium has a very narrow therapeutic range: too much leads to sever side effects; too little and there is no therapeutic effect.

Diabetes is an example of monitoring plasma or blood biomarkers and high blood-pressure is a case of measuring an external biomarker, whereas bipolar disorder is actually an example of monitoring the therapeutic.

The examples mentioned can all be monitored at home, which was not possible even 30 years ago. A lot of people believed that self monitoring by patients could never happen as medical experts would be required to make sure that the tests were performed correctly, however, we have now seen many improve their quality of life because patients can monitor themselves at home.

What are the benefits of patients objectively monitoring biomarkers of their medical conditions?

The main benefit is better patient outcome, when individuals take responsibility for their own disease and treat it immediately, this leads to them having better health. Their lives will be extended and quality of life will be higher. Improved health of the patient must be the focus of the benefits brought about.

Cost is also a factor. Rather than making a doctor’s appointment, driving to a clinic and visiting the doctor, a person can monitor their disease at home and immediately treat it, which leads to cost savings for health care services and the individual. Visits to a doctor can be reserved for more serious diseases and initial diagnosis of disease.

What criteria must such devices satisfy?

They have to provide immediate data. The patient who is testing themselves needs immediate feedback of what is going on. We are talking about the production of data in seconds.

The data also has to be objective and easy to interpret; it can’t be subjective (for example, a large range), which may say bad, good or great, or perhaps a color chart. It has to be an accurate and reproducible number, which someone can read and know that they are in a healthy or unhealthy range with respect to that marker.

The devices must also be small, on a pocket-sized scale so that they can be carried around. For example, diabetics need to monitor their blood at any time so they can eat properly and sleep without worrying about their blood glucose being in a healthy range.

Finally, in order for these tools to be adopted worldwide they have to be cost-effective. I believe if we let the market drive these tools they will be cost-effective due to the competitive nature of the market.

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