24 January 2018, Geneva - Advances in mobile technologies, network coverage and internet access have transformed the way we interact with each other. These developments create novel possibilities to improve patient care, and reduce patient and health system costs. They have the potential to advance the notion of patient-centred care, bringing it within reach of many low resource settings.
But in doing so there are key questions which need to be addressed: Which application is best suited to the circumstance? How reliable is the information and evidence for effectiveness? How can this be implemented? Who will pay?
To help address such questions, the Global TB Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), in close collaboration with the European Respiratory Society (ERS), other technical partners and national tuberculosis programme staff, is releasing a practical manual titled Handbook for the use of digital technologies to support tuberculosis medication adherence.
“Digital technologies can be a useful tool to support TB patients in their difficult journey to cure,” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme. "This handbook is based on existing evidence and experience in the use of such tools and stresses the need for patient-centred care and continued learning, for achieving the best treatment outcomes for people with TB.”
The handbook focuses on three technologies - short message service (SMS), medication event monitoring systems (MEMS) and video-supported treatment (VOT) - that are being widely employed in efforts to help TB patients complete their treatment over the many months that their drug regimens last. It outlines the main elements that clinicians, other health workers and care providers need to prepare for when considering the implementation of digital technologies to help patients follow their TB treatment better. The handbook draws upon evidence on the impact of digital health technologies on TB treatment adherence, which has been summarized in an article featured in the latest issue of the European Respiratory Journal.
In 2017, WHO published its first evidence-based recommendations for the use of digital technologies in support of TB treatment delivery and adherence in the latest WHO TB treatment guidelines. “The handbook provides practical advice to help implement these recommendations and is aligned to the 2015 WHO/ERS digital health agenda for action for TB”, said Dr Mina Gaga, ERS President.