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Reimagining Global Health Research: Why Diversity Holds the Key

Sept 2, 2020 | Praduman Jain – Founder and CEO, Vibrent Health

As the founder and CEO of Vibrent Health, I am proud to lead a technology company on the forefront of powering the future of precision medicine. We are a company dedicated to transforming how digital health solutions can be used to innovate research with the promise of unlocking the full potential of health data in ways that stand to change the course of human health.

Building on and validating this vision, I am proud to share that today, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded us a new funding award to continue as the Participant Technologies Systems Center of the All of Us Research Program. This award builds on a longstanding and successful partnership and paves the way for the next phase of this initiative.

The award also marks another important milestone for Vibrent Health as we lead the way in reimagining global health research as a whole. This got me thinking about what it means to “reimagine global health research.” At its simplest, I believe it boils down to a three-pronged approach centered around diversity: the diversity of populations, diversity of data sources and the ability to engage and retain these diverse participants.

 

The story behind Vibrent Health

Before we look forward, I believe it’s important to look to the past. I founded Vibrent Health in 2009 after many years of working in telecommunications and consumer electronics for companies including Sprint, Nextel, AOL, Time Warner and VTech. Through my experiences at these companies working with mobile technologies, my interest in mobile health specifically was piqued. Through extensive research into the space, I saw the great opportunity and potential for mobile health – but also the reality that it was a fractured system with no interoperable data standards and lack of good user experience. That’s when I knew I had to do something to fix it. With my deep expertise in the underlying technologies and understanding of the market, I felt a calling to get involved.

The area in which I felt my knowledge would be the most impactful was digital health research. There was a large whitespace to fill in terms of making sure participant data was derived from a variety of both traditional and digital sources, and that it could easily be collected, shared and analyzed virtually. Additionally, there was a huge gap when it came to participants themselves – U.S. health research has historically lacked diversity among its cohorts. After receiving our first award from the NIH in 2016, which allowed us to enhance and extend our digital health solutions platform to power the NIH’s All of Us Research Program, we were able to start meeting these needs. We were honored to be selected as the recipient of that award and felt validated that our vision to reflect the rich diversity of America in health research was one shared by such a prominent institution.

A three-pronged approach to diversity

Flash forward to 2020 and we are thrilled to have received this second award from the NIH to build on our success. Today, Vibrent Health offers a breadth of applications for the collection, storage, organization, analysis and curation of data from disparate sources. Our platform focuses on accelerating the entire research lifecycle – allowing customers a single, proven platform that replaces multiple vendors, is more cost-effective and has been used by research organizations to accelerate their research. For example, our platform helps research enterprises accelerate their research by creating, measuring, scaling and continuously improving the experience at speed to stay competitive and achieve research outcomes needed in the increasingly fast-paced environment of technology enabled health research.

Underlying all of what we do is participant data. We have strict data security, privacy and confidentiality protocols in place to keep participant data safe – something we believe is paramount to building trust with communities. We have robust systems in place for securing electronic informed consent from participants for virtual studies and trials – such as digital signatures, multi-tiered consent to each data source, granular consent withdrawal, and more. Vibrent Health also provides participants with knowledge checks, as a critical aspect of eConsent in making sure the participants are well-informed about what they are consenting to.

All of these differentiators have allowed us to take the next step in reimagining health research as we know it. However, what runs throughout all of our work and makes us well-equipped to take on this mission is our commitment to a three-pronged approach to diversity:

  • Diversity of population

    The first prong is focused on participant diversity with respect to racial, ethnic, gender and socio-economic status, among others. Vibrent  supports more than 100 institutions that have enrolled more than 356,000 All of Us participants on Vibrent Health’s platform, including more than 270,000 core participants who have completed all of the initial steps of the program. Of those core participants, 80 percent come from populations that are historically underrepresented in biomedical research and 50 percent are racially and ethnically diverse.
  • Diversity of data sources

    Vibrent Health’s cloud-hosted, cyber secure platform brings in data from participants from a wide variety of sources. This includes electronic health records, mobile apps, enrollment website interfaces, surveys, wearables and more, providing a comprehensive look into genetics, clinical, lifestyle, behaviors and environmental data of participants. Providing value to each participant is a core mission of our company. Data collected from these diverse data sources provides insights into various patterns in a person’s health data which is returned back to each participant which provides for opportunities for engagement.
  • Engaging and retaining diverse participants

    Most traditional health research studies invest a lot of resources to recruit participants up front but then do not have the resources and strategies in place to retain them long term. That’s where we are different. We create technologies that improve participant engagement across every facet of virtual and in person health research. We bring efficiencies to the full lifecycle of research with one platform for broad data collection, participant insights, as well as participant outreach, recruitment, enrollment and eConsent. Specifically, we apply sophisticated, data-driven digital marketing and communications strategies designed to deliver the personalized, tailored messaging that helps organizations both find and retain participants, including from diverse and hard-to-reach populations.

Vibrent has also partnered with a network of academic and industry organizations that will contribute machine learning, technology innovation, research expertise and emerging cybersecurity approaches to the implementation of the Digital Health Solutions Platform. Some of these research innovation partners include: Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; ICF, Fairfax, Virginia; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia; HackerOne, San Francisco, California; and University of California, San Francisco, California.

The future of health research is Vibrent

Through our partnership with NIH, we’re setting the standard for collaboration between industry and academia, unifying excellence in science, research and digital health solutions. Our successes to date, combined with this second award, put us in the position to execute on our vision of a personalized, diverse, inclusive and transformative platform that can help the world rethink the way it approaches health research, and what we can expect from it. We are proud to be a part of a catalyst for positive, long-term change in health research.