Mark Duman is a pharmacist-turned-management consultant and the Chief Patient Officer for Ampersand Health. Here he talks about how information therapy and a patient-centred focus can help digital therapeutics solutions like Ampersand’s HealthSuite change lives.
I had Type 2 diabetes for six years.
Like the thousands – millions – of other people with long term conditions in this country, no-one knew my individual situation better than I did. As a patient (not to mention a former pharmacist!), I was far better qualified to contribute data and ideas to my unique programme of care than anyone in the healthcare community.
Amidst the cacophony of noise around digital health at the moment, something new is needed to stir the blood of commissioners, clinicians and managers – a clarion call that demystifies digital therapeutics and demonstrates a clear path forward.
For me, this means harnessing the principles of good information therapy and person-centred health. It means seeing patients as active participants in healthcare rather than simply passive recipients of the latest medicine, device or app.
A care provider would never dispense medicine without first knowing a patient’s BMI, blood type or medical history. And yet people routinely assume they can design digital self-management tools without exploring and fully understanding a patient’s information therapy needs.
As technology continues to break new ground, it is more important than ever to find a balance between clinical innovation and patient quality of life.
“Heart, head and hands”
There’s no point in having an app telling you to take your medicine if you don’t want to take your medicine in the first place.
To begin with I defaulted into a very medical approach to my diabetes. I concentrated on taking my medication at the right time in the right dosage. But I was disengaged and disillusioned. I didn’t like being ill. Who does? What motivated me most was actually completely NON-medical. I looked at my now-seven-year-old daughter and thought: “If I don’t get this dangerous long-term condition under control, I might not be here for your wedding in 20 years’ time.”
That’s a personal goal. It had nothing to do with blood glucose levels – and nothing to do with keeping my doctor happy. Or paid!
One of the things we need to do in healthcare is move away from the wholly-medical approach and look at people’s real motivations and drivers. What is in their head? What is in their heart?
The truth is, we all know the basic medical tenets anyway: smoking, activity, diet, sleep, medication – it’s not too complicated.
With simple questioning, a slight shift in emphasis can start to ascertain a patient’s non-medical motivators – as well as their levels of health literacy and digital literacy – and that data is crucial in determining what is right for them.
So, until we know what’s really going on in a patient’s head and heart, we can’t put something truly effective into their hands.
Ampersand’s HealthSuite service – incorporating MyIBD Care and MyArthritis Care – is part of a digital revolution that is keeping patients at the centre of their own treatment programmes, as well as helping create efficiencies in the healthcare system.
By focussing on non-medical areas like lifestyle management, behavioural changes and exercise regimes, patients are encouraged to manage their own care better – which in turn helps to cut down on GP visits and hospital admissions, improving health outcomes and reducing the cost of care.
For digital therapies to be truly effective, backing from clinicians and commissioners is vital.
MyIBD Care was developed with the support of leading clinicians and piloted in the gastroenterology departments at King’s College University Hospital and Barts Health leading to cost savings of more than £1m in the first year alone.
When a smart, patient-centric new therapy is proven to be effective – and also has the backing of an engaged, digitally-mature clinical champion – it creates a holistic solution that benefits not only patients and clinicians, but the whole healthcare system itself.
Looking at information as a therapy helps organisations like Ampersand Health develop next-generation digital therapies that truly revolutionise the way long-term conditions are (self) managed.