Inspiration: As a physician scientist, I am committed to employing tools and technology to advance the delivery of digital therapeutics which I have found limited and quite suboptimal in existing health information systems. As a survivor of autoimmunity, specifically Hashimoto's disease, I experienced first hand how social determinants of health can significantly influence access to quality care and how it serves as a backdrop to provider's limitations to providing needed resources to the chronically ill in a time constrained one-on-one telehealth visit.
After joining several support groups online to further understand the social context of my illness, despite my medical knowledge and experience, I found that shared lived experiences with other mums in a 1.2 million-member Facebook group named 'Hypothyroid Mum' helped me achieve remission and wholeness much more than any encounter I had in a clinical setting.
This discovery made me realize how disconnected the medical community is from patient experiences on online social platforms. Furthermore, it proves that those suffering from chronic illnesses are seeking answers from other's like them who share similar challenges and experiences while dealing with a chronic condition. However, the healthcare industry is unable to manage and mitigate medical misinformation which is highly pervasive on social platforms. Case in point, COVID vaccines. I have since dedicated my time and efforts towards improving patient-provider interactions through what I call 'Medical Group Hugs', otherwise known as Shared Medical Visits.
My 12 years of industry experience as a population health expert has convinced me of the need for this solution especially since health systems like Kaiser permante and Cleveland clinic have attempted this care delivery model but have been constrained from holding in-person group visits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe that a digital platform like WellnessWits will expand the use of this care delivery model and allow them streamline their workflows in a more effective scalable 'digital first' manner.
What it does: Group therapeutics provides a unique digital health solution that helps clinicians, digitize, standardize and automate care delivery to the chronically ill, using an end-to-end open platform for virtual Shared Medical Appointments (SMA). Our approach to care delivery model brings a shift from one-to-one clinical encounters to one to many; allowing prospective identification, clinical risk stratification, targeted interventions and closed loop monitoring that fosters increased patient engagement, reduced clinician burnout and care delivery cost savings for providers and payers.
How we built it: We are developing a turn key solution for clinicians to run evergreen programs as well as training and technical support for team members to onboard seamlessly into the platform. With an understanding of the limitation of many of the digital therapeutics and electronic health record platforms in the market; we orientate our proven approach around groups based engagement where everyone (consumers, providers and payers) learns from“real world and practical experience” . Our software is built with a focus on patient engagement and clinical effectiveness that streamlines physician workflows
Challenges we ran into: In built group governance was the biggest challenge we faced while building our solution. We have solved this problem by making sure only registered patients in a clinic who already have an existing relationship with a doctor will be allowed to join a group visit. Furthermore, only physicians will show on video and audio will be restricted to those who have been in the group for at least 2 visits. We also have a group code of ethics that each member must sign before being accepted into a group.
Accomplishments that we're proud of: We’ve piloted our approach with representative stakeholders in primary care, specialist and employer based wellness programs and the immediate benefits are significant and offers a change to how our industry personalizes health outcomes.
In 2021, we completed a 100-person MVP pilot study for an elimination diet program for IBS, IBD and Reflux disease patients in a gastroenterology group practice. A total of 84 patients participated in the Elimination Diet Program (94% Female). Of those, thirteen patients (15%) were interviewed with a questionnaire to determine patient satisfaction and rating of SMAs. Results indicated a significant number of participants were very satisfied with the virtual group sessions (12 patients, 92%), 10 out of 13 (77%) were very satisfied with the weekly chat check-ins and engagement activities by the virtual care team, and 11 were very likely to recommend group medical visits to their friends and family. 23 of the total 84 patients reported significant improvement of one or more chronic gut symptoms by the 3rd week of participating in the program.
What we learned: These results show that specialty care can be provided in a group setting through SMAs for patients suffering from chronic symptoms that are socially influenced. With the patients having more time spent with their clinicians and the clinicians spending less time on 1:1 patient care, the clinical impact and the return on investment can be multiplied for both the patient and providers alike, especially when barriers like distance and patient privacy are eliminated in a virtual setting.
What's next for Group therapeutics: We are hoping to pilot group therapeutics for multiple use cases especially for diseases like diabetes and mental health.
Our upcoming milestones:
Onboard our existing customer, a gastroenterology physician group and 50% of the existing 15,000 patients in their database (i.e. 7500 users) within the next 6 months.
Streamline program design to better accommodate new app features to incorporate AI, ML and blockchain over the next 6 months.
Onboard 50 more clinicians and expand our Virtual Care Teams (VCT) up to 50 coaches over the next 12 months.
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