Tapping In: Top Digital Trends Driving Consumer Health R&D
In today’s world, there aren’t many things in our daily lives that don’t involve digital technology. From how we book travel, to online banking — most things that we need are just a swipe or click away. As a result, trends are emerging involving how we adopt digital tools, and the new ways scientists innovate to improve everyday life.
But exactly how are scientists improving our day-to-day lives? For the most part, it’s done through “Research & Development” or “R&D,” which describes what companies do to innovate and introduce new products and services. In R&D, digital helps us innovate faster and more efficiently. To put it in perspective, things that once took months are now done in minutes.
“Today’s digital revolution directly impacts every aspect of R&D in an organization, shaping how consumer needs are addressed through emerging technologies and science-backed solutions,” said Dave Lutness, Global Digital Strategy, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health R&D. “R&D is what allows us to test and produce digital tools that help consumers take matters of personal health into their very own hands.”
Join us as we explore three major digital trends driving some of the latest innovations in Consumer Health R&D.
Leveraging Digital for Healthcare On-the-Go
With increased time away from the physical office in recent years, we’ve seen a rise in digital health.
Sometimes, when we hear digital health, we think of telehealth. But in reality, digital health and telehealth differ, and telehealth is not the only way health can be managed virtually.
In research, some scientists are conducting remote clinical trials using “wearable technology,” which are electronic devices you can wear to track data related to physical activity, including exercise and vital signs, like our body temperature or blood pressure. These wearable sensors facilitate research & development by strengthening data collection.
Continuing the trend of using digital to bring health to home, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health recently launched the SmartCheck™ Digital Ear Scope from Children’s TYLENOL®, an easy-to-use, at-home otoscope that was built to help doctors check for ear infections remotely. The handheld tool also comes with a companion app for increased personalization.
As the makers of Children’s TYLENOL®, scientists at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health know ear infections are the #1 cause of child doctor’s visits in the United States1. This insight pushed them to move beyond the pill and create new, digital capabilities for a brand parents and caregivers around the world know and trust.
What’s the Difference?
Digital Health vs. Telehealth
Digital Health: The use of digital technology to manage illnesses and health risks and promote wellness.
Telehealth: The remote assessment of health conditions through platforms that use live video, audio, or instant messaging.
Using Data Science to Improve Quality of Life
Not long ago, the idea of “predicting the future” was a dream, but now it has become a reality. Today, scientists are able to use data to predict human health and external conditions that may impact it.
Take allergies, for instance. In the United States, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness, with approximately 50 million Americans suffering from allergies each year2. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is a common allergy often caused by sensitivity to pollen or mold.
Given the impact allergic rhinitis has on people across the country, a number of researchers and organizations have collected data over the years to evaluate the many internal and external factors that contribute to the condition.
This collection of data has resulted in the creation of predictive tools, such as digital maps and diaries, to forecast allergen levels.
Our very own scientists are also using predictive tools to get ahead of each allergy season. One example is our AllergyCast® app, which forecasts and tracks the severity of allergy symptoms for consumers based on the allergen levels in their area.
Through AllergyCast®, we are able to collect an average of 5,000 real-world data points each day, allowing us to unlock insights into how seasonal allergy symptoms are associated with environmental factors like pollution and pollen. These insights allow us to not only help people today, but also provide data points to help our R&D team better shape allergy products of tomorrow.
Key ‘Data’ Terms
Data: Pieces of information formatted and stored in a way that can be used for reference or analysis.
Data Sets: A collection of data.
Data Science: The use of large amounts of complex data or big data to inform decision-making.
Predicative Modeling: A statistical technique to predict future behavior.
Creating Virtual Environments for the Real World
Throughout the history of healthcare, the best way to test the effectiveness of a product or the impact of something on human health has been through real-world testing. But recently, scientists have begun to create virtual environments to mimic reality.
Before our favorite beauty products hit the shelves, we have to develop prototypes, which are early versions of a product. Today, scientists can use 3D modeling technology to create 3D prototypes—realistic images of products and their packaging—before they are manufactured. While these images cannot be touched, you can see every detail of the product from its shadows to its shape and shine to make sure it looks exactly how it was envisioned for consumers.
At Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, we’re using 3D modeling in R&D to better understand the impact of sun exposure on vulnerable parts of the body. Using virtual body models, our researchers can obtain data on exact exposure in order to determine which areas of the body are more prone to sun damage. Our hope is that this new and unique way to look at sun exposure paves the way for how we conduct research and develop sun products in the future.
Key 'Virtual' Terms
3D: Another way to say “three-dimensional,” which is something that has width, height, and depth (length).
3D Modeling: The process of using software to create a virtual representation of a three-dimensional object or shape.
Like the world around us, consumer needs are ever-evolving. At the same time, so is the role of digital in our day-to-day lives—especially as it relates to our health. The digital revolution we are in is what pushes us to follow the science and unlock new innovations that will transform how we work, the way we live, and make the impossible, possible.
“In R&D, we really believe in our science,” said Dave Lutness. “Our digital focus is aimed at strengthening our science-driven solutions to deliver experiences that will shape the future of Consumer Health, bringing our innovative products to the right consumers at the right time.”