The healthcare sector is positively groaning under the weight of products designed to help people get better or improve their quality of life. But exactly how does one accurately assess the usefulness of these products to their end users? The short answer is not easily, which is why Daniel Regan of the UCD School of Psychology thought there might be a gap in the market for a more effective way of measuring their value. One of the reasons why this matters is because how patients react to products could make the difference between a product being approved for use and reimbursement by healthcare funders and providers or not. Regan established Cortex Analytics in November 2016. It is based at UCD's NOVA innovation hub where it employs four people. Regan's PhD topic was around the development and assessment of a novel psychometric tool for use in public-health research and he has returned to psychometrics (which can test attributes such logic, reasoning and attitudes) to create his patient-centred approach to tackling the product value issue.
“I take medication for asthma and have always struggled to be adherent,” Regan says.
“Some time ago I was prescribed a new product and my adherence skyrocketed. I began trying to assess what was different this time and to use myself as a mini case study. What I was sure about was that if I had been part of a formal research trial using traditional quality of life metrics to assess the change in my behaviour, they would not have adequately addressed what was going on for me in terms of real product value. It was also around this time (2013/2014) that the Quality Adjusted Life Year metric – the main metric used to value products for pharma and medtech use – was identified in a European Commission-funded study as being unfit for purpose and of providing dangerously flawed information. I began to scope an alternative approach similar to those used by multinational pharma/medtech companies and other patient-focused researchers. This began to clarify that a psychological framework, similar to that of my doctoral work, might be able to more accurately measure patient needs and therefore more accurately value products for industry.”
Regan says that few current metrics provide predictive data in relation to medication adherence (it’s not called compliance any more as this seen as too prescriptive) or willingness to pay. “We go beyond quality of life by anchoring subjective responses to the healthcare product in use,” he says. “In a way it is an augmented assessment of user acceptance and this is critical information for companies. Due to its psychological framework we can collect enhanced data about clinical and commercial issues earlier in the design and clinical trial process and can provide better information sooner as a result.
“Those paying the bills are also coming to realise that the subjective patient voice, as measured by metrics such as ours, is a critical predictor of health behaviour and therefore outcomes,” Regan adds. “The patient voice, subjective and biased as it may be, is a core part of the value-based era in healthcare.”
Regan is a former Fulbright fellow and spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, before returning to Ireland to work at ARCH, the Enterprise Ireland-funded applied research centre for connected health. Cortex Analytics' initial target customers are global pharmaceutical and medical technology companies with sales to insurance and healthcare providers to follow.
Regan has spent more than two years bringing his research to this point and with its potential now established he has been awarded an Enterprise Ireland commercialisation grant of €350,000. Product trials will begin in early 2018. As this is a very early stage venture, components such as the revenue model have yet to be nailed down, but Regan says some sort of licensing arrangement is a likely route to market.