“Digital therapeutics a necessity in India but full adoption will take time”

Mentioned Mr Abhishek Shah, Co-Founder and CEO, Wellthy Therapeutics in an exclusive interaction with the BioVoice News. His company is working in the area of diabetes management through digital interventions. Read his detailed interview:

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Wellthy Therapeutics is a digital therapeutics company that uses artificial intelligence and patient-centric design to improve patient outcomes for all stakeholders in diabetes care. Wellthy’s Digital Diabetes Management Programme facilitates behavior change and self-management for patients, while helping physicians to enable continual care using technology. Furthermore, it is the first endorsed digital diabetes intervention by Asia’s largest diabetes association Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI).

The Co-Founder and CEO of Wellthy Therapeutics, Abhishek Shah took the questions from BioVoice News on company’s current operations, digital therapeutics and much more


Please tell us about the Wealthy’s inception and growth story. What are your latest priorities?

Wellthy Therapeutics was born when a bunch of us – healthcare entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers, designers, consultants and venture capitalists – who shared a passion for tackling diabetes and chronic diseases came together. We all have family members close to us who are suffering from diabetes or hypertension, and we felt a gap in healthcare that a digital therapeutic pill could solve.

My parents are first-gen healthcare entrepreneurs themselves, so this was never an if, but always a when. After mentoring and helping fund several startups as a venture capitalist, I finally found my calling to start my own venture in 2015. As an idea evolved into a business, the founding team came together.

Our latest priorities include continued clinical validation led with South Asia’s largest clinical trial for a digital diabetes intervention; improving the product and efficacy with a better technology stack and artificial intelligence capabilities; and improving user experience with an improved design.

How is the Wellthy’s Digital Diabetes Management Programme making a difference in the lives of patients?

We improve outcomes. But more importantly, we improve quality of life. Whether it’s reversing diabetes in some cases, to more confidence to manage diabetes in all cases – we help patients deal with the condition head on. In the process, we aspire to make patients happier. We help solve their worries. We ensure patients don’t feel they’re in this alone. We are their health partner – committed to help patients get better, and keep them better.

Our program was designed to do just that. 2018 will see thousands more benefit, with tangible improvements in their blood sugar control and health vitals within a few weeks of starting the program.

How did the Wellthy partner with RSSDI to conduct the first-ever clinical trial on a diabetes app in India? What has been the outcome?

Our conversations with the RSSDI began like any other – as a casual mention in a short interaction at a conference. A combination of incredible doctors at the RSSDI committed to improving patient outcomes and of a young company like ours committed to making a real tangible difference to patient outcomes, allowed the conversation to blossom. Continual clinical validation with global publications allowed both sides to gain confidence in the solution, and led to an eventual endorsement from the RSSDI as South Asia’s first prescribable digital diabetes intervention.

Clinical validation can and should never stop. 2018 belongs to South Asia’s largest randomized clinical trial for digital diabetes intervention, which is currently in the final stages of planning. We expect to have the results towards the end of 2018.

“While the opportunities are many, digital therapeutics remain a largely unregulated space – innovators need to work with the regulators to change that”

How do you look at the current state of digital therapeutics in India? How big has been the reach out so far?

Digital Therapeutics are a necessity. We don’t have universal healthcare, and we have a chronic disease pandemic. Coupled with an unmanageable doctor to patient ratio and a very low affordability and access to healthcare, digital therapeutics are one ray of hope to thwart the heavy onset of metabolic conditions like diabetes. However, adoption will take time.

While consumers are increasingly becoming savvy with apps, the success of digital therapeutics needs healthcare stakeholder buy-in. That is a positive and, rightfully, slow process. As that evolves, the market will mushroom. Digital therapeutics like ours are pioneering this journey forward.

Phase I of our journey has been as a clinical innovator. We’ve focused all our efforts in clinical outcomes and efficacy, and thus concentrated on product improvement. Phase II will begin shortly, where you will see a more refined effort to take our solution out across select markets.

What kind of opportunities do you foresee in the digital medical interventions? What about the challenges posed by them?

There are specific therapy areas where digital medical interventions show real promise. Metabolic conditions like diabetes and hypertension are the need of the hour and have proven science behind them. Prevention of chronic disease can and should be one of the biggest applications across the same spectrum. Management of cancer; solving for smoking addiction, managing pain, medication adherence augmentation, especially for tougher therapy areas like parkinson’s and addiction recovery, remain great use cases.

While the opportunities are many, digital therapeutics remain a largely unregulated space – innovators need to work with the regulators to change that. In the ocean of applications and service providers, it will always remain important for the intervention to stand out. In a world of instant growth, the innovator will need to remain patient and work within the slow but certain evolution of healthcare.

Are there any instances of behavioural changes in patients because of prescription based apps? Why?

Behaviour change is central to any chronic disease management intervention. They could be small conscious behaviours like taking medicines on time via a helpful reminder, and they could be as strong a habit change as a complete reduction of carbs in diet and an increase in fibre and protein for every meal, without any nudge or prompt to remind the user. Without behaviour change, digital therapeutic driven health improvement is only temporary. As soon as the patient stops using the app, old habits will come back. Great design, incredible deployment of science, and a world class technology delivery system to deploy the product are essential elements to make this behaviour change happen repeatedly and successfully.

Digital Therapeutic pioneers like Omada Health, Welldoc, Virta Health, Pear Therapeutics, Proteus Health and Wellthy Therapeutics are some examples of digital medical interventions that have a proven track record of showing behaviour change, leading in turn to published clinical outcomes.

Wellthy Therapeutics recently published real world data at the RSSDI 44th Annual conference & at the RSSDI 45th Annual Conference in India, at the AACE 26th Annual Congress in Austin, TX, at the ADA 77th Scientific Sessions in San Diego, CA, at the IDF World Congress 2017 in Abu Dhabi, and will soon publish at the 11th Annual ATTD Conference in Vienna in 2018. The proof point for any digital therapeutic will always will be its outcomes, both real world and published.