The Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA) has published a report on how digital therapeutics (DTx) can help minimize the differences between access to healthcare in rural and urban areas in the United States.
The report referred to data from federal programs, which revealed that nationwide death rates were higher in rural areas than in urban areas and, in the last decade, the gap in these inequalities has widened for five of the seven major causes of death in the United States—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, and suicide. The outlook is particularly bleak as approximately one in five Americans (circa 60 million people) live in rural areas, many of whom have limited access to healthcare facilities.
Leveling Disparities with Digital Technology
DTx are a rapidly evolving branch of healthcare. They focus on the treatment, management, as well as prevention of these life-threatening diseases using a device that 80% of rural Americans own … a smartphone.
Sidekick Health recognizes the value of a high-quality, evidence-based DTx solution, which can seamlessly complement in-patient care in rural areas. The use of DTx solutions will continue to grow, improving health outcomes through better patient engagement and real-time monitoring of patients’ health. This will especially impact underserved communities by making it easier for patients to act on various health issues when they occur and get real-time support from their doctors when they’re unable to access healthcare facilities.
Support for Cancer Patients
According to the DTA report, “Significant disparities exist in cancer care for rural patients, with death rates that are 114% of their non-rural counterparts.” This is particularly true for cancers that are preventable through early detection. People living in rural areas are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, and once they are, report worse health conditions than urban patients. Rural cancer patients also face longer travel times to hospitals and lack supportive services throughout their cancer treatment.
While treatment options are increasing and improving for cancer patients, side effects from these treatments can significantly affect patient well-being, sometimes appearing even months or years after therapy. Monitoring of these side effects is necessary not only to provide healthcare professionals (HCPs) with information regarding the patient’s health status and reactions to treatment, but it also contributes to research by informing HCPs and pharmaceutical companies about effective ways of administering treatment and what aspects of long-term care need to be improved.
Early and Continuous Collection of Symptoms
Electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePROs) supported through Sidekick’s DTx platform are easily accessed by smartphone through the downloadable app. Patients can complete daily questionnaires on a variety of topics, ranging from their energy levels, to mental health status, and treatment symptoms.
What’s crucial is that HCPs can find out about any potential side effects afflicting their patients in real time, and often before they become serious.
This aspect of digital care will make an enormous difference in managing the treatment of patients outside of urban areas who rarely see a specialist between hospital visits.
Empowering Diabetes Patients with Tools for Health Self-Management
Approximately 10% of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, while nearly one out of three Americans have pre-diabetes. Inadequate treatment of this disease may lead to further health complications, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. In the United States, people living in rural areas have more risk factors for developing diabetes than those living in non-rural areas: they are more likely to smoke cigarettes, have high blood pressure, and have less time for physical activity. A resident of a rural area is 30% more likely to die from the disease. Due to barriers such as lower numbers of healthcare facilities outside of cities, many people may not be diagnosed at all, and even if they are, support programs that help manage the disease are few and far between.