Home » Digital Health » Self-care and digital health: how they help NHS

Fabio Mazzotta

Head of North and South Europe Consumer Healthcare, Sanofi

From fitness trackers to symptom checkers, digital health is helping us all to take care of ourselves and shaping our future relationship with the NHS.

Technology has the power to help us all take care of our own health, better manage chronic disease, and relieve pressure on the NHS.

“Self-care, which encompasses the responsible use of over-the-counter medications to the adoption of healthy lifestyles, not only empowers people to live better lives, but it also frees up precious NHS resource,” says Fabio Mazzotta, Head of North and South Europe Consumer Healthcare at medicines company Sanofi.

“Self-care empowers all of us to act in the interest of our own wellbeing. It activates a virtuous cycle of preventative healthcare, which decreases our dependency, relieving financial burden on the NHS and moving resources down the line to the care of more vulnerable patients,” he adds.

The COVID-19 crisis has given digital health an opportunity to prove what it is capable of.

A surge in digital fitness tracking since COVID-19

More people than ever are using fitness trackers and apps to monitor health. Smartphones with increasing computing power, and technologies such as AI and ML, are making giant strides in terms of interpreting all that data to deliver early disease detection and targeted results.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has given digital health an opportunity to prove what it is capable of,” said Fabio. “On-demand triage services have given people access to advice and diagnoses more quickly and efficiently than ever before.”

Digital health support for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation

Sanofi has been working on a number of digital health projects with the aim of supporting self-care for IBS and constipation – both undertreated conditions that have a significant impact on quality of life.

“In these areas, complementing digital services are very meaningful as they enable people who might not otherwise have accessed care, either because they were not aware of available treatment options or were struggling to receive appropriate and timely diagnosis.”

Improving access to health advice

IBS is assumed to affect around 13 million people in UK, yet just three million take over the counter medicines to ease their symptoms. Only 30% of people with symptoms, which include cramps and abdominal pain, ever speak to a doctor, and just a fraction of those are diagnosed and treated.

Similarly, up to 12 million people in the UK might be affected by constipation, but just four million take proven, over the counter medications to relieve the problem.

“This translates into higher incidence of those conditions progressing in severity until they require hospital intervention later on,” says Fabio.

The company is running a “very fruitful collaboration” with UK-based digital health company, Babylon. More than 30,000 people have already been part of AI-powered symptom checker, triage, and video consultation service on the websites of Sanofi’s digestive health products.

“The objective is to offer people with IBS a way to self-diagnose their symptoms and facilitate their access to a therapy. It takes on average four to five appointments for a patient to be diagnosed with IBS. By contrast, it takes only five minutes for a patient to complete the symptom checker. With two thirds of the users reporting a better understanding of their symptoms and showing intent for taking action on a treatment, you can appreciate the transformative impact for NHS and for individual sufferers of such a service,” adds Fabio.

Sanofi is also working with Cara Care, a digital therapies and diet management app, which helps people take a holistic approach to digestive health, assisting them with a personalised diet management programme.

IBS is assumed to affect around 13 million people in UK, yet just three million take over the counter medicines to ease their symptoms

High demand for easy access to straightforward advice

“The encouraging results of many digital health solutions that we are testing plainly show the relevance and high demand for simplified health access for minor ailments and the synergy of science supported product offerings with added value services to provide better patient care.

“Based on our experience, we believe digital health innovation will shape the future of healthcare, and allow for a more holistic, interconnected and personalised consumer experience.”

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