Human-Centered Design, Behavior Change, Smart on FHIR, User Engagement
Areas of Focus:
Research, Design, Development

Orthobiologics is a promising but still evolving field of medical research focused on using regenerative medicine to improve joint issues and other musculoskeletal concerns. As is often the case with new medical therapies, practitioners are working to develop the most safe and effective protocols in real-world situations.  

While orthobiologics is still not FDA-approved, the market is expanding rapidly. In fact, the global orthobiologics market is forecast to grow to $8.87 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 5.48% from 2022 to 2027. Due to the rapid growth predicted, practitioners are looking for a way to speed up the research and development process to ensure better outcomes through evidence-based therapies. With the goal of advancing research in mind, one startup turned to Vessel Partners for help designing an app to collect data from patients and advance orthobiologics research.

Addressing the challenges of research outside of a lab

In clinical research, researchers have control over strict protocols, allowing only certain patients to be recruited to minimize other variables that may impact the outcomes. Patients would have the same ailment and be treated using the same protocol. But in real-world settings, patients often have different complaints — think knee pain vs. hip pain — and may receive different treatments. Clinicians looking to find the safest, most effective treatments are challenged by a lack of standardized data, especially in this field without established standards of care. Additionally, when dealing in patient-reported outcomes (PROs), one of the biggest hurdles is getting patients to check in regularly and share their data. 

To overcome these challenges, Vessel Partners designed an app using human-centered design informed by evidence-based techniques to keep users engaged. The first step is to make log-in as easy as possible — in this case, patients are texted a link, bypassing the need to sign in at all. 

Patients are then given a specific PRO survey based on the body part being treated. The app asks them to report progress and improvement but also new symptoms or negative reactions that may arise. 

Collecting data for the future of orthobiologics

Vessel Partners’ client was a clinician-owned startup, but clinics across the country are able to join and use the app to collect data. This makes the task even more challenging, adding more  variables into the equation. We created a complex taxonomy of diagnosis and treatment options that was still easy and fast to enter. It was a careful balancing act to provide enough options to accurately represent the real world while keeping it small and structured enough to be easy to enter data. We also had to make it usable for data scientists — ensuring the data did not get divided up into so many different buckets as to become statistically insignificant. 

Ultimately the goal is make it as easy as possible for staff to enter and collect data not only because they are busy, but because gaps in data are a very common problem in real-world evidence. When patients fill out their surveys, the data flows through to the clinical site — giving doctors access to their patients’ surveys and an easy way to view population trends.

To ensure clinics are able to collect a statistically significant amount of data, Vessel designed automated reminders for both patients and clinics to fill in pertinent information, and for staff to do patient follow-ups. 

The app also allows clinicians to sort and analyze data by patient, adverse effects, the affected body part, diagnosis, and treatment. Doctors can then pull data to publish their findings to move orthobiologics closer to FDA approval and more evidence-based practices. 

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