What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is characterized as a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the intestines. IBD comprises of two autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, and can cause patients to experience abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, fatigue, and malabsorptive nutritional deficiencies. While genetic predisposition plays a key role in immune-mediated diseases, the major influence seems to be environmental factors.
IBD affects more than 6.8 million people globally and the prevalence of IBD has been rising over the past decade. Although incidence of IBD in Asia is still relatively lower than in North America and Europe, it is increasing there, too. Substantial indirect costs arise from work productivity losses (around $2200 per patient per year, according to one study), owing to the debilitating symptoms that IBD can cause.
As there is no cure, IBD treatment is currently limited to anti-inflammatory and immune modulatory drugs, steroids, and antibiotics. However, recent patient-centric research has identified several non-pharmacologic strategies that patients identified as being useful in self-managing their symptoms, including adjusting their diet, seeking support for pain and fatigue, sleep management, exercise, and attending to their mental wellbeing.
While it is clear to see how improving these aspects of a patient’s life could contribute to a better quality of life, it relies upon the patient to modify their behavior, and this can be difficult to achieve without adequate support. Digital therapeutics, such as Sidekick’s platform for IBD management, are specifically designed to aid in this behavior modification in a seamless, integrated approach that keeps patients engaged day to day.
IBD are complex diseases and there is currently no cure. However, the modern drugs are able to dramatically improve symptoms, decrease complications and change disease outcome. Beyond that, the patients may play a key role in further improving their quality of life. Particularly, by acting on three pillars which are stress, physical activity and alimentation, they can further improve the control of the disease and decrease their medication need. The Sidekick Health IBD program may help them to become actor in their own disease management.
Dr. Edouard Louis, MD, PhD
How Behavior is Linked to Health
Human behavior is increasingly being recognized as a key element in patient outcomes, especially in chronic diseases that have lifestyle-associated factors, and through behavioral economics we can begin to understand what influences the choices that people make in the real world.
Humans tend to rely on heuristics – that is, mental shortcuts that allow faster, but often less considered judgements when problem-solving – and although these can be useful, they can also lead to errors that cause negative behavior. This is particularly problematic in the context of taking care of one’s health, where poor habits may have led to obesity, smoking or sedentary lifestyles, all of which can exacerbate a chronic disease.
Three characteristic factors of heuristic choices are inherent to human nature and decision-making: bounded rationality, willpower, and selfishness. By understanding these limitations of humans’ instinctive decision-making, digital therapeutics can leverage these behavioral idiosyncrasies to influence patient choices in a positive way. For example, in order to counteract bounded willpower, it has been shown that motivation in the form of feedback can be powerful: receiving visual feedback on the consequences of smoking can lead to healthier habits, and daily feedback messages enhanced adherence to self-monitoring of a patient’s diet, leading to improved weight loss.