Health IT, Patient Engagement

Video remote monitoring for directly observed therapy stems TB outbreak in Puerto Rico

With an eye to the successful use cases in Texas and Puerto Rico, emocha CEO Sebastian Seiguer hopes to convert more public health departments into customers in 2018.

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Emocha is one of a few companies that have developed a way to digitize directly observed therapy, or DOT, for conditions such as drug-resistant tuberculosis and Hepatitis C. It means that people using its technology can take their medication remotely, record themselves doing it with a smartphone and transmit that video to a healthcare professional to demonstrate their adherence.

The Johns Hopkins-backed mobile health company’s remote monitoring approach to DOT was recently applied to a mental health facility for men in Puerto Rico that’s had recurrent outbreaks of TB since 2010. The study was highlighted in a report by the Centers for Disease Control. 

Emocha’s video DOT tool was deployed about one year ago, just before Christmas. By May 19, the 11 active TB patients and six latent TB patients using emocha demonstrated clinical improvements. The outbreak was declared contained by the Puerto Rico Department of Health earlier this year.

Sebastian Seiguer, emocha CEO and cofounder said in an email that the Puerto Rico use case produced a 92 percent adherence rate in one cohort and 87 percent adherence in the second cohort, all of whom completed therapy.

Seiguer also pointed to another application of emocha’s technology by Harris County in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  The county’s health department used emocha’s video DOT technology to keep their patients adherent to their medication therapies for TB during and after the hurricane when seeing patients in person was not possible due to the flooding.

Looking ahead to next year, Seiguer noted some milestones the business hopes to achieve. at the top of the list, he said the company plans to launch programs with payers to apply its technology to improve medication adherence for chronic diseases.

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“Low medication adherence leads to poor health outcomes and higher healthcare costs. Using video DOT can improve adherence and potentially reduce hospitalizations, emergency visits, and other utilization,” Seiguer said.

Emocha also plans to apply its video DOT tool to the opioid addiction epidemic. It is currently awaiting results of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to assess the feasibility of applying emocha’s technology for this patient population.

With an eye to the successful use cases in Texas and Puerto Rico, Seiguer said he hopes to convert more public health departments into customers in 2018.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that emocha’s technology was used for a TB outbreak in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It was used to keep TB patients adherent to their medication because they could not keep medical appointments due to flooding. We regret the error.

Photo: diego_cervo, Getty Images