– Mount Sinai launches new precision wellness iPhone to for individuals to compare the effectiveness of wellness-related treatments.
– The app’s name is derived from what scientists call an “n-of-1” trial, in which individuals compare the effects of different treatments on themselves.
– Though the N1 app will initially focus on wellness, these methods and tools may one day be more regularly used in clinical contexts.
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, today announced the launch of a new mobile precision wellness iPhone app that enables individuals to compare the effectiveness of wellness-related treatments. Have you ever wondered whether your double latte really helps you function better in that early-morning meeting? Or if melatonin truly gives you better sleep at night?
N1: Back Your Wellness With Data
The app, known as N1, enables individuals to answer these kinds of questions in a statistically rigorous way. The app is also designed to address a pervasive problem in health and medicine—different treatments can work differently on different people. Some respond very well to acetaminophen, for example, while others feel no benefit. Trying to find the most effective treatment for yourself through trial and error can be challenging.
The concept isn’t new, but n-of-1 trials haven’t been widely adopted because designing these kinds of studies from scratch can be expensive and require specialized expertise. The N1 app simplifies the process by defining the parameters of the experiment—outlining what treatments to try, when to take them, and what outcomes to measure. It then uses sophisticated statistics to analyze the data that users collect and generates individualized results summarizing the comparative effectiveness of the treatments.
Initial Focus on Wellness
Though the N1 app will initially focus on wellness, these methods and tools may one day be more regularly used in clinical contexts. Some physicians already use n-of-1 experiments as an alternative to the trial-and-error approach often required to find the best treatment for their patients. For a patient suffering from chronic pain, for example, a physician might prescribe an n-of-1 experiment comparing acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). The N1 app could offer physicians an easier way to structure these comparisons.
Data Sharing Privileges
Users must agree to share their data from the app—deidentified, in most cases—with Mount Sinai researchers, but can choose whether or not to share de-identified data with scientists outside Mount Sinai.
Coffee vs. Tea Challenge
The app, now freely available in the Apple iOS store (but not yet available on Android), is launching with a specific experiment: the “coffee vs. tea challenge.” The goal of this study is to determine whether users get a better brain boost from caffeine or caffeine plus L-theanine, a naturally occurring compound found in green tea. Each morning, the app will instruct users to take caffeine or caffeine + L-theanine, from coffee, tea, or over-the-counter supplements. It will then deliver a series of brain teasers to assess creative thinking, processing speed, and visual attention.
N1 App Expansion Plans
“Through the use of technology, we are able to make these tools available to a much broader audience,” says Jason Bobe, MSc, Associate Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director of Democratized Health Innovation at INGH, and Principal Investigator of the study. “The hope is the app will enable many more people to adopt the n-of-1 approach.”
Mr. Bobe and collaborators plan to roll out additional experiments designed to demonstrate how to use medical science to address common wellness-related issues, such as sleep problems or chronic pain. Some of these will take advantage of data from wearable devices and smartphone apps that many people already use for self-tracking. Eventually, the team hopes to adapt the platform so users will be able to design their own experiments. N-of-1 experiments may also provide individuals a way to assess the benefits of the myriad wellness products on the market, such as supplements or apps that claim to improve sleep or memory.
Impact of App for Clinical Research
“We’ve taken the tools that power clinical research and for the first time made them available to the public,” says Noah Zimmerman, PhD, founding Director of the Health Data and Design Innovation Center at the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare (INGH). “Individuals can now use some of the statistical and methodological tools that scientists use.”
“The N1 app gives users a tool to leverage data they may already collect to make informed decisions about real-world treatment dilemmas,” Dr. Zimmerman added. “We hope this will help people make data-supported choices about what really works for them.”