Digital Biomarkers Have Evolved as Safe Options to In-Clinic Testing

Advanced motion-tracking analysis continuously tracks movement patterns, quantifies measures of health, and provides clinically meaningful performance outcomes to personalize patient care.

4 min read
Illustration of a woman stretching with small dots highlighting points on her body.

Computers that see

Emerging technologies are changing how we practice medicine and how we interact with digital therapies to address chronic disorders such as musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. Computer vision powered by artificial intelligence enables computers—including smartphone cameras—to “see” more like humans do. The most innovative and successful digital therapeutic companies are using these cutting-edge technologies to complement traditional, clinic-based therapy.

A woman on her back uses a towel to stretch her leg.

The ability to track motion using computer vision has made it possible for smartphones to see the user, detect movement patterns, and guide therapy for MSK pain and other disorders. Increasingly, motion-tracking systems are able to measure the actions of the human body in 2D or 3D, providing real-time feedback to ensure proper form and that exercise is safe and effective. Digital biomarkers are generated by assigning a score to these movement patterns, which allows digital therapies to continuously adapt to the day-to-day progress of the patient. Tracking biomarkers adds a new level of precision to the digital treatment of chronic disease.

What exactly is a digital biomarker?

Blood glucose level, range of motion, and flexibility are all examples of biomarkers that aid in indicating how the body is functioning and potentially reveal responses to a therapeutic intervention. These measurements track disease progression and activity, are correlated with outcomes, and also enable us to fully understand the impact of a given therapy. A “digital” biomarker relates to how the measurements are collected, as with wearable sensors or computational tools such as smartphone-based computer vision. Digital biomarkers are increasingly common in measuring and tracking heart disease, sleep problems, respiratory issues, and chronic pain.

Smartphone-based digital biomarkers have emerged as simple yet powerful alternatives to in-clinic assessments while increasing the effectiveness of the therapy for MSK pain and other chronic health challenges such as COPD.

When it comes to chronic pain, the Kaia Health Pain Management app uses computer vision and digital biomarkers to calculate flexibility, range of motion, and other movement patterns to determine fitness level and other measures of health. This allows the therapy to meet the user where they are, rather than the other way around. These digital metrics can, in turn, form the basis of evidence-based interventions that work alongside gold-standard multimodal pain management therapy.

The importance of digital biomarkers in effective MSK therapy

Kaia Health’s motion-tracking platform, Motion Coach™, serves two important roles within Kaia’s digital therapeutics:

  • Form correction for safe and effective exercise.
  • Creation of digital biomarkers for progress tracking and personalization.

And Motion Coach™  accomplishes this without the need for additional devices and wearables,  working with just a smartphone or tablet camera. Motion Coach™ with digital biomarkers does the following:

  • Quantifies movement as a digital biomarker to generate clinically meaningful performance outcomes.
    • For example, the Kaia Health toe-reach program can be used to assess flexibility and inform therapy guidelines.
    • It identifies key points on the body to assess posture and movement.
  • Remotely monitors performance and tracks user progress over time.
  • Communicates results directly to a user’s personal human coach for review of personal markers.
  • Intrinsically motivates users and drives engagement by making progress more tangible for the user.

A Kaia Digital Biomarker is a measurement generated by an individual, through motion tracking analysis, that is used to continuously track and quantify an individual's state of health or provide actionable insights for practitioners to make more informed health decisions.

Benefits of digital biomarkers

  • Large and self-insured employers—as well as health plans—appreciate that one of their largest health cost centers can be addressed digitally and cost-effectively for higher engagement and better outcomes.
  • Enable a more objective measure of disease state and improvement that can be implemented at scale.
    • They do not rely on subjective employee self-assessment.
    • They can autonomously track markers in real-time as objective metrics among all users.
  • Allow health plans to individualize policy plans and accurately track outcomes to solidify value-based reimbursement policies.

Advancing digital therapeutics through digital biomarker innovation

Digital therapeutics (DTx) adoption is on the rise as employers, payers, and providers become increasingly comfortable with new technologies. Digital therapies for MSK pain and other chronic conditions offer employers and health plans the opportunity to attack the number one driver of healthcare spend while delivering superior health outcomes along with increased user engagement and job satisfaction.

The move toward evidence-based, integrated, and scalable DTx solutions is reshaping the healthcare landscape. Kaia Health is at the leading edge of the technological revolution, empowering MSK health through digital engagement while expanding our offerings into COPD and hip and knee pain.

To learn more about how we can help your organization minimize the impact of chronic musculoskeletal pain on physical and mental health, and ensure the safety, success, and well-being of employees, schedule a brief intro call or demo with our team.

Further Reading