Time to embrace the digital healthcare!

The virtual apps and telemedicine will define the future of healthcare delivery, writes Amitabh Nagpal, Founder and CEO, LifeInControl while explaining their utility especially in the context of diabetes

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Amitabh Nagpal , imageAbout Author: Amitabh Nagpal has founded a revolutionary diabetes management program, LifeInControl, that brings doctors, patients and health coaches together, on one seamless platform. As an Angel Investor since 2010, he has invested in many start-ups and also co-founded many ventures such as Cymbal Corporation (acquired by Patni computers) an IT services company, Study Places Inc. (acquired by Educomp) and ShapeCrunch, a project for 3D Printing in healthcare. Mr Nagpal is an alumnus of Stanford University Graduate School of Business, USA.

Mobile devices have become commonplace among healthcare professionals with numerous apps available to assist them with important tasks. These include information and time management, health record maintenance and access, communications and consulting, reference and information gathering, patient management and monitoring, clinical decision-making and medical education and training.

The trend of virtual consultations is catching on fast, as globally we see it taking form as a new and convenient way to deliver healthcare. Doctors are linking up with patients by phone, email and webcam. They are also consulting with each other electronically sometimes to make split-second decisions on heart attacks and strokes.

Telemedicine and virtual doctors are allowing for better care in places where medical expertise is hard to come by. This will especially be beneficial for patients in rural areas, patients with PTSD, new mothers, senior citizens who have no way of going to see a doctor on their own, and other patients in similar situations. Moreover, it cuts short the waiting time spent in hospitals and clinics. Virtual consultations also increase patient engagement with easy access of reports and patient charts, and facilitate convenient, automated record keeping.

Of course, it would be wrong to say that a virtual app will completely replace physical doctor visits. It does however, enables better time management and ease of access.

“Telemedicine and virtual doctors are allowing for better care in places where medical expertise is hard to come by”

Implementing virtual apps at ground zero

Although mobile phones and app are quite prevalent their use to monitor and treat medical condition is still getting discovered. There are largely three big challenges that we are facing and trying to overcome while introducing our diabetes app to the market. The first challenge is with the clinicians, most of the clinicians want to use the technology to extend care to their patients but lack of time and lack of infrastructure at the clinics become a limiting factor. We overcome this by training not only clinician on our technology but also the clinic staff. Subsequently the onboarding and counselling of patient runs smooth. The second challenge is on the patient side, not all patients have smart phones but most of the patients we talk to are willing to use the app to manage their condition better. We are now working on a SMS based method to engage with patients who do not have a smart phone. The third and most important challenge is financial incentives to deploy and leverage technology. Both the clinicians and patients should see enough value coming out of the app to use it at a mass scale. We think that an insurance system can unlock this value.

The clinicians who are using the app and formulating an integrated plan to manage diabetes should be incentivized in a way that more patients should come to them as the approach will definitely yield better clinical outcomes. The patients should be incentivized with reduce year on year premium on insurance for managing their diabetes better. As I write, we are working with several insurance players to explore this opportunity. We think that by solving these three big hurdles we would be able to hasten the use of the LIC app and would be able to pass on the clinical benefits to the patients in a much faster way.

The LifeInControl app is a revolutionary Diabetes Management Program that seamlessly connects clinician with diabetic patients. It is a technology platform which enables either a caregiver (clinician, hospital) to launch an integrated diabetes management program or in future would enable an insurance company to launch diabetes insurance. The cost of our platform is not to the patient but to the hospital or to the insurance company.

Cost effectiveness of mobile apps

Mobile and E-health applications provide safe and fast access to information for both clinicians as well as patients. Moreover, they enable better care for patient’s health and help create a partnership between the doctor and the patient who has the knowledge and facilitate decision-making regarding treatment. These apps are often dubbed as efficient, cost-effective and secure methods for the use of information and deployment of advice.

In terms of diabetes management and costs arising from the long-term complications incurred by this condition (e.g. cardiovascular disease, strokes, retinopathy, nephropathy, and amputations), policy makers and health care providers continue to focus on identifying self-management interventions that improve diabetes care and patient related outcomes. Prior research has shown that diabetes self-management education and support improve haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels by as much as 1%, reduce the risk of developing debilitating and life‐threatening complications, and have a positive effect on other psychosocial and behavioural aspects of diabetes.

“Of course, it would be wrong to say that a virtual app will completely replace physical doctor visits. It does however, enables better time management and ease of access”

Innovating digital diabetology

The socio-economic strata of newly diagnosed diabetics are quite astounding. The average age of diabetics is coming down, the prevalence in rural and urban population is increasing year on year, the lifestyle is becoming more and more sedentary, combined with unhealthy eating habits the managed of diabetes is becoming more and more challenging.

There is clearly an urgent need to fight this epidemic at a large scale and we are convinced that only technology can help to address this problem at a mass scale. What we need is a large scale, clinically validated, clinician led program to be deployed for diabetes management. We are also convinced that an equal participation from care givers (diabetic educators, patient’s family and friends) would be required to tackle the menace. We are also convinced that a large scale insurance play is waiting to unveil to manage chronic disease in a mass scale.

We are developing our product keeping these challenges and keeping the solutions in mind. We are using the power of Artificial Intelligence and data to invent the field of digital diabetology. Through our technology we are empowering clinicians to deploy an individualized care plan, through our patient app we are empowering the patient to monitor his condition and take corrective actions through real time logging, reminders and feedback, through our coach platform we are empowering both clinician and patients to extend management of at risk patients via a team approach. We are committed to continuously innovate our technology and work with stakeholders who are relentlessly working to check mate diabetes in India and eventually in the world.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that should be managed over several years. Using the app, the clinician can deploy an individualized care plan (set of goals for patient), can monitor the progress towards goal achievement, encourage patient if he/she is progressing positively or intervenes if the progress is lagging. The information can be shared, exchanged and monitored in real time and ensures that clinician and care givers keep the patient motivated to fight diabetes. The inbuilt modules in app encourages patients to make better choices in terms of healthy eating, more exercising and reducing stress.