My background is research with stem cells in a wet lab and caring for behavioral health patients in a hospital. I have experience collecting experiment data, processing it, and then presenting my findings solely in an academic environment. I understood how scientists discover a drug and how that drug was tested in a dish, then in a lab animal, and then finally in humans; all in an effort to reduce the amount of risk put onto patients when they take a new medications. I’ve spent years learning about patient care, about treatments, about outcomes, about how hospitals are run. But there was still much I didn’t know about the regulations and practices surrounding healthcare system.
Did you know that there are laws in place specifically to ensure your insurance company covers behavioral health treatments? Also that some insurance companies will deny these claims, even if the services should be covered? Until I started working for PHAGE, I didn’t. I also didn’t know precisely how Pharmacy Benefit Managers reduce prices of drugs for some insurance policies and not others, often inflating the price of the same drug for those without insurance. Or that medical devices can be FDA-approved without clinical trial if they are similar to another FDA-approved medical devices. I didn’t know pharmacies that make compounded drugs have little to no regulation. Lastly, I didn’t know what Real World Data and Real World Evidence is, or how they can be leveraged to make medicine safer, less expensive, and more personalized for patients. Knowledge without the ability to apply your findings is inherently frustrating but I have found a way to better patient lives through building the “thought engine” of the PHAGE platform.True to name, I’ve been with the Personalized Health Academy of Guided Education (PHAGE) for the past four months and I’m still learning.
My initial project at PHAGE was applying what I knew to create a tailored content experience for patients with schizophrenia and anxiety. Behavioral health is my wheelhouse, so it was exciting to track down and review articles, videos, and podcasts with the knowledge that patients would have a singular place to go for vetted knowledge that could help them. The difficult part was wrapping my head around how our algorithms are used to ensure the right PHAGE user would be paired with the right content. The next exercise was doing the same for diagnoses and therapies with which I wasn’t familiar. By the time I completed five of these tailored content experiences, I was able to understand the technology behind our modules and how they feed into our research.
Now I’m drawing up reports of how well the tailored content experiences contribute to positive outcome for PHAGE users. The reports themselves also have to be tailored to consider the specific users who would benefit the most from consuming them and what changes we hope these users will implement based upon that. Basically, this report uses the real world data PHAGE collects to measure the efficacy of the PHAGE’s own algorithms and determine if something in our technology needs improvement. While working with real world patient data was a natural progression for me, it required a shift in thought and perspective from what I was used to. Like knowing how to play hearts and rummy, and then being taught dominos. The rules and goals are much the same, but it just looks a little different. The previous experiences combined aiding in learning the logic behind the new task. It’s exciting because this is just one way that real world data can be used to improve the lives of patients. The world is still adjusting to the vast possibilities of what data we may collect and what questions could be answered from it.
“Accept your feelings. Know your purpose. And do what needs to be done.”
– Shoma Morita
Nicole Y. Roberts is a Real World Evidence (RWE) Research Analyst for Phage Corporation with a M.S. from UCF in Biotechnology. They wrote their thesis on the effects of Reelin on the migration of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells reprogrammed from a Schizophrenic patient sample. Prior to earning their advanced degree, Nicole spent three years caring for patients in crisis at an in-patient behavioral health unit in Wuesthoff Hospital (Cocoa, FL) as a behavioral health technician. Their background in both healthcare and biomedical research allows them to bridge the gap between patients, providers, payers, and manufacturers. Their goal at Phage is to use RWE to foster the best outcomes for all patients.