Raj Shandilya, 51 (name changed), was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes.
Along with pills to lower blood sugar levels, his doctor prescribed him a digital app of Wellthy Therapeutics.
Yes, you heard it right, a digital app as part of diabetes management.
The app developed by Mumbai-based Wellthy Therapeutics, is available for both Android and iOS users, in multiple Indian languages.
The app acts as a personal health coach using technology tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to nudge a person for a behavioral change.
For instance, if Shandilya wants to have his favourite sweet over and above his regular diet, the app tells him how many additional steps he needs to take to burn those extra calories.
If he hasn’t checked his blood glucose levels in a while, the app reminds him to take the test. If the blood sugar readings are crossing the acceptable threshold levels more consistently, the app advises seeking doctor's help.
It keeps track of physical activity and monitors Shandilya’s compliance in terms of taking medicines. It also keeps a track of blood glucose levels.
The app also educates him about diabetes, diet and lifestyle changes he needs to adopt, all this by employing interactive gamification tools to make the learning more entertaining.
“Digital therapeutics works by empowering patients to be able to manage their chronic condition (or disease) which a pill or medical device on standalone cannot achieve,” said Abhishek Shah, CEO Co-Founder, Wellthy Therapeutics.
“It’s like having somebody by your side managing your condition all the time because a doctor can only see you twice or thrice a year, that too for probably 15 minutes for each visit and has no control on the behavioral aspects of the patient,” Shah said.
It took three years for Wellthy to develop and clinically validate the digital therapeutics (DTx) solution. It found out that for the most engaged diabetes patients on their platform, the DTx helped in reducing their fasting blood sugar readings by 21.4 mg/dL and cumulatively increased their physical activity by 133 minutes during the study. Both observations were several times greater than the results for the least engaged cohort of patients. Wellthy presented the results at an American Diabetes Association conference in June this year.
Wellthy also partnered with the New Delhi-based Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI) to become an application that doctors could prescribe to their patients.
According to the Diabetes Atlas published by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India accounts for 49 percent of the global diabetes burden, with an estimated 72 million cases in 2017. This figure is expected to double by 2025.
Unlike other wellness apps that directly target consumers, Wellthy has adopted a business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C). The app can be prescribed directly by doctors or is available bundled with a medical device, drug and health insurance policy, as a sponsored app to the customers.
Wellthy is currently working with hospitals and clinics, pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers; and insurers to reach its potential users.
Pharma will have to move beyond just selling a pill, says Umang Vohra, MD & Global CEO of Cipla.
“We have to really start reaching patients directly to help them manage their disease, and digital is going to play a major role,” Vohra says.
In February this year, Cipla picked up 11.71 percent stake in Mumbai-based startup Wellthy Therapeutics for a cash consideration of Rs 10.5 crore.
Recently, Wellthy recently signed a new collaboration with German pharma major Bayer to design and develop digital therapeutics for their drugs under Grants4Apps partnership program.
Wellthy also works with Roche Diabetes Care India through Accu-Check glucometers. The company is also backed by Ranjan Pai of Manipal Hospitals, who made an equity investment.
For health insurance companies, who have to deal with the loss ratio of 105-110 percent meaning that for every Rs 100 collected as premium, Rs 105-110 is paid out as claims, Wellthy digital therapeutic solution helps in preventing the patients falling sick, as healthier customers mean lesser incidence of claims.
The app provides real-time data on their customers’ health status, nudges them to comply with the treatment and make certain lifestyle changes to prevent future complications. More importantly, it helps them to underwrite the risk better, which isn’t the case now due to lack of data.
For Wellthy which was registered December 2016, its business has begun with the app's commercial launch early this year.
Shah says the business has been doubling every month and is expected to continue with the same momentum next year as well.
Apart from English, Wellthy has launched the apps in Hindi and Kannada. Soon, it is planning to launch the app in Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, alongside adaptations for major ASEAN and MENA markets, where it is looking to enter. The company which is offering DTx for diabetes and cardiovascular plans to add diseases like respiratory and cancer, among others.