For some health interactions and interventions, health systems deliver care fueled by real-time, real-world data captured through digital health technology.
New research being done by the National Institutes of Health centered on precision nutrition is a recent example of how innovations in health IT are driving the way research translates into patient care.
Vibrent Health, whose data collection and engagement platform is enabling the NIH study, views precision nutrition as a crucial and growing area of health research that digital health technology can greatly enhance and accelerate.
Praduman “PJ” Jain is CEO and founder of Vibrent Health and a principal investigator in the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program. He spoke with Healthcare IT News about precision nutrition research, how digital health can help – and how his company’s technology is translating the research into patient care.
Q. Please describe the new research being done by the NIH centered on precision nutrition.
A. The Nutrition for Precision Health study, announced early in 2022, is nested in the NIH All of Us Research Program, a national initiative that aims to enroll 1 million people in health research to advance precision medicine and accelerate medical discoveries.
The NPH study seeks to collect data that will help individuals and their healthcare providers create healthy, precise and effective diet plans tailored to human diversity. To accomplish this, researchers will leverage the latest nutritional research and evidence-based dietary interventions at a larger scale than ever before. This has become possible because All of Us has the largest digital health research cohort of its kind.
With the introduction of NPH, the All of Us Research Program is reaching an exciting new stage. The study is the first ancillary study to leverage the All of Us infrastructure to answer scientific questions important to participants, like understanding more about the role of nutrition in health.
As the Participant Technology System Center for All of Us, Vibrent Health is in the critical position of delivering advanced technologies enabling researchers to remotely recruit and engage with diverse cohorts at a national scale.
Vibrent’s technology and expertise enable the NPH and the All of Us Research Program’s nationwide network of health research partners to recruit and electronically consent; perform data collection through electronic surveys, wearable devices and electronic health records; and engage and support the diverse participants of the precision nutrition cohort.
Q. You view precision nutrition as important health research that digital health tools can boost. Why is it so important, and how can digital health help?
A. Data-driven and tailored approaches to better health are the future. Precision health research is key to helping individuals achieve optimal health through solutions designed to take into account data about many aspects of health, including fitness, mental well-being, sleep, diet and metabolic health based on their biology and individual needs.
Precision nutrition research is critical to inform the development of evidence-based, personalized nutrition recommendations. Precision nutrition research will build on recent advances in biomedical science – including artificial intelligence, genetics and microbiome research.
This research will add valuable data about the dietary habits of participants and use modern data mining techniques to develop and validate algorithms for clinical application.
Digital health research enables the development of diverse national cohorts of people from every walk of life in a way not possible using traditional, offline research. Precision nutrition is uniquely suited to leveraging digital health tools because of the frequency of engagement and the ability to embed dietary assessment directly into a person’s digital lifestyle.
Food journaling, mental health assessment and activity tracking are possible using mobile technologies in a manner that moves large-scale nutrition research closer to the consumer applications that real people use every day. Vibrent Health’s work will help to make this data available to participants as well as researchers at scale not possible before.
Q. How has your company’s health IT been driving the way the NIH research translates into patient care?
A. Vibrent’s digital health research platform has enabled creation of one of the largest cohorts of its kind using digital technologies. Various health systems have enrolled patients as research participants in this large national cohort.
Vibrent Health’s participant portal and study management tools are specifically designed to support participants longitudinally over a long time horizon, which most other digital health platforms rarely support. Vibrent Health and the All of Us Research Program have a large number of participants who have continued to contribute data for almost six years, and we’re just getting started.
The kinds of technologies that support health research that takes place over such a long period aren’t just about data collection – they also need to achieve digital engagement through tools that build and preserve relationships and provide meaningful value to participants.