The powerful cardiac patch has been used in multiple studies including AF detection, coronary artery disease, stress, and depression. (Credit: Vivalink)

In the ever-evolving landscape of clinical trials, the advancement of edge computing technology in wearable devices is revolutionizing the way research is conducted. Today, the exponential growth of data poses significant challenges for traditional cloud computing models, which struggle to keep up with demand. That’s where edge computing comes in. With its ability to process data closer to its source, edge computing offers a solution to the limitations of conventional cloud infrastructure. By leveraging edge computing, researchers have an opportunity to enhance remote patient monitoring and reshape the traditional clinical trial paradigm.

Traditional clinical trials often encounter significant challenges in participant recruitment, data collection, and monitoring. The sheer volume of data generated in today’s digital age has outpaced the capabilities of conventional cloud infrastructure, resulting in slower processing speeds, reduced efficiency, and higher costs. However, with the advancement of edge computing, these challenges can be effectively addressed, opening up new possibilities for more efficient and patient-centered research approaches.

By leveraging wearable devices that are equipped with edge computing capabilities, researchers can overcome participant recruitment hurdles and offer improved accessibility and usability for trial participants. These devices enable real-time data collection and continuous monitoring, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information throughout the trial duration. Utilizing the capabilities of edge computing and wearable technology for patient-centric and data-driven research has the potential to accelerate medical discoveries, improve patient outcomes, and drive efficiency.

Half the size and weight of competing solutions, the wearable cardiac patch captures and sends multiple vitals from remote patients to applications in the cloud. (Credit: Vivalink)

Edge Computing: Enhancing Data Reliability and Quality

Data reliability and quality are paramount in clinical trials, and edge computing plays a pivotal role in achieving both. By enabling local data caching in the event of network failures and automatic data synchronization between wearable devices, mobile apps, and the cloud, edge computing significantly enhances data integrity throughout the entire data chain. With this capability, researchers are ensured that no critical data is lost even in the face of connectivity challenges, providing researchers with a robust and uninterrupted stream of information.

Edge computing also enables real-time data validation and preprocessing at the edge, allowing for immediate error detection and correction before data is transmitted to the central cloud infrastructure. For example, continuous ECG data collection can be skewed by patient activity in ambulatory situations. An edge computing gateway can preprocess the data so that only usable data is received in the cloud.

By leveraging edge computing capabilities, clinical trials can overcome data integrity challenges, optimize workflows, and achieve more accurate and timely analysis, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

Minimization of Cloud Costs

The vast amounts of data generated in clinical trials pose a significant challenge in managing cloud costs. With traditional approaches, the sheer volume of data transmitted to the cloud incurs substantial expense due to bandwidth usage and storage requirements. Edge computing mitigates these expenses by leveraging local processing capabilities. Wearable devices equipped with edge computing can preprocess and filter data locally, transmitting only relevant information to the cloud.

Without edge computing, the entire volume of remote data captured would be sent to the cloud whether it’s needed or not. As a result of this optimization, bandwidth usage is minimized, and cloud storage requirements are reduced. By processing data at the edge, clinical trials can achieve substantial cost savings while ensuring critical data is efficiently and reliably managed.

Expanding Patient Recruitment

One of the most significant factors contributing to trial delays is patient recruitment. Ensuring an adequate number of qualified participants who meet the trial criteria within the desired time frame is essential but often poses considerable difficulties. Ineffective patient recruitment strategies, limited access to eligible individuals, geographical constraints, and the complex nature of trial protocols can all contribute to delays and prolonged recruitment timelines.

However, edge computing enables the decentralization of clinical trials, expanding the candidate pool through increased geographical reach. Remote technologies allow patients to participate in trials from virtually anywhere in the world. This breakthrough not only broadens the reach of clinical trials but also enhances accessibility, easing recruitment challenges and improving trial efficiency.

Empowering Participant Engagement

Once an unreliable communication method with inconsistent coverage, web meetings have evolved into a seamless and reliable solution in recent years. With this advancement, people can connect and collaborate effortlessly regardless of geographical boundaries — a natural progression from traditional communication methods like e-mail, phone calls, and texts. In the era of personal devices, medical sensors are becoming more mainstream as well.

The advancement of edge computing technology in wearable devices improves the overall user experience and patient engagement in clinical trials. For instance, Vivalink’s wearable sensors integrate seamlessly with edge computing devices such as a tablet, providing intuitive user interfaces and ensuring a user-friendly experience for patients.

By leveraging personalized notifications and insights, wearable technology empowers patients to actively participate throughout the trial. Enhanced patient engagement contributes not only to a more satisfying experience for participants, but also generates valuable data for researchers and clinicians.

Accelerating Medical Advancements

For clinical trials, edge computing offers scalability and flexibility. By incorporating edge computing capabilities into wearable device architecture, researchers can easily adapt to different study designs and protocols. Researchers can also customize the technology to meet specific trial requirements, thus supporting a wide range of research objectives and accommodating evolving needs.

In the past, certain study protocols required patients to be physically present at research sites. However, with the advancement of edge computing, these protocols can now be executed remotely.

The advancement of edge computing technology in wearable devices has revolutionized clinical research, resulting in improved data reliability, reduced cloud costs, enhanced patient engagement, and increased accessibility. By harnessing local data processing, enhancing connectivity, and enabling remote monitoring, edge computing has transformed the landscape of clinical research.

As the technology continues to evolve and gain broader adoption, we can anticipate a surge in innovation across industries, particularly in healthcare. Edge computing’s impact on cost optimization, data quality, and patient-centricity positions it as a pivotal technology driving efficiency and enabling impactful clinical trials. With researchers and clinicians increasingly embracing this technology, edge computing holds the potential to accelerate medical advances and significantly improve patient outcomes.

This article was written by By Jiang Li, CEO of Vivalink, Campbell, CA. Li has more than two decades of experience across multiple disciplines, including global healthcare IT, medical device, cloud software, and sensor and IoT industries. For more information, visit here .

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Medical Design Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2023 issue of Medical Design Briefs Magazine.

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