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How digital therapeutics could empower patients

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Dr Jitesh Bhatt, VP – Clinical Product, Wellthy Therapeutics believes that while it is hard to imagine anything can take the place of in-person consultations, the adoption of new digital technology that is accessible to both patients and their doctors will be a beneficial practice long after we have exited the pandemic. Thus DTx will be an integral element in the emerging healthcare delivery model of the future

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged healthcare systems around the world in multiple ways. Hospital administrators and doctors have had to prioritise the urgent care of those with COVID-19. They could pay little or no attention to those with long-term chronic conditions because they were not considered to need ‘urgent’ attention. In-clinic visits were reduced to emergency cases only and many endocrine and diabetes clinics that took care of people with chronic conditions were forced to shut down temporarily.

Doctors were worried[1] that this lack of consultation and communication with patients could cause their disease management to go off track at a time[2] when they needed even more care, particularly because they were more vulnerable[3] to poor outcomes if they contracted COVID-19.[4]

Digital technology to the rescue

It is in this scenario that digital technology has come to the rescue. COVID-19 has provided a huge impetus to the quick implementation of several digital solutions in health delivery that have served to close the gap in patient doctor interaction.

Digital solutions in healthcare include wearables and sensors, digital diagnostics, smartphone apps and digital therapeutics. These support a range of regulatory compliant health delivery functions such as teleconsultation, remote monitoring, AI-enabled patient, and doctor and caregiver integration, to make chronic disease management effective and efficient, even without the traditional face to face patient doctor interaction.[5]  The widespread use of the smartphone has made these tools accessible and easy to use and has enabled patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease to, ‘literally’, hold their health in their hand.

DTx at work, during and between consultations

A crucial aspect of care for chronic conditions is the need for adherence and monitoring between consultations. This is where digital therapeutics (DTx) platforms are an ideal support for patients. A DTx platform is based on artificial intelligence-enabled design and real time consultation with trained health coaches, to help patients stay on course with their disease management between doctor consultations.

Patients are reminded to log in their details, biological parameters and track their food and water consumption. They are also reminded about medication and are promptly alerted to any red flags in their biochemical levels. Health coaches analyse their behaviour and provide real time feedback and emergency recommendations, when required. These data points are also accessible to a patient’s doctor who can make more informed clinical decisions about medication, dosage or a change in protocol.

What also makes DTx platforms different from other smartphone apps is that they have clinical evidence to show their effectiveness. Peer-reviewed data-driven studies have demonstrated that these platforms can motivate patients to adhere to their physician’s prescriptions and see a significant improvement in their biochemical parameters.

Looking back, looking ahead

It is hard to imagine that anything can take the place of in-person consultations. However, COVID-19 has compelled us to adapt quickly and see the value and benefits of digital technology for healthcare delivery. In the last few months, we have taken quantum leaps in our adoption of digital technology and tools to aid patient care and patient-doctor interactions.

According to some experts, about 70 per cent to 80 per cent of problems related to diabetes can be managed through digital tools such as telemedicine, and this is likely to hold true for other chronic diseases as well.[6] I believe that the adoption of new digital technology that is accessible to both patients and their doctors will be a beneficial practice long after we have exited the pandemic, and DTx will be an integral element in the emerging healthcare delivery model of the future.

References:

[1] Panchangam RB, Kota SK, Mayilvaganan S. Letter to the Editor: Endocrine and diabetes clinical practice during national lockdown and post lockdown period. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2020;14(4):479. doi:10.1016/j.dsx.2020.04.037

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7189840/

[3] http://www.ijncd.org/article.asp?issn=2468-8827;year=2020;volume=5;issue=2;spage=58;epage=62;aulast=Mohan

[4] Mohan V, Ramesh J. Managing diabetes and COVID-19: A national strategic framework. Int J Non-Commun Dis [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Sep 1];5:58-62. Available from: http://www.ijncd.org/text.asp?2020/5/2/58/288257

[5] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1011-4

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7189840/

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