Real World Research in Digital Health: Dr. Ethan Basch Joins Self Care Catalysts

Real World Research in Digital Health: Dr. Ethan Basch Joins Self Care Catalysts

I’m very excited for the next wave of digital therapeutics as a leader in real-world evidence, Dr. Ethan Basch, joins a company I advise (full disclosure), Self Care Catalysts.

Back in 2012, I wrote that “an engaged patient is the Blockbuster Drug of the Century.” The quote itself has had a life of its own, showing up in Health AffairsForbes and many, many PowerPoint presentations at health care conferences over the years. Since then, the term “patient engagement” has had its ups and downs as policy has changed around value-based care…along with some widely varying results on engagement.

Still, as some of the early dust is settling, we’re starting to see the potential of digital therapeutics as evidence comes in.

Exhibit A in the movement to better digital therapeutics is that we’re now seeing top medical researchers moving in to study real-world evidence outside of clinics and controlled trials. The primary factor: research into these tools that collect real-world evidence is producing improvements in real-world outcomes.

One newsworthy example is that Oncologist Ethan Basch, MD, a leader in patient-reported outcomes research (PCOR), is joining Self Care Catalysts as an Advisor. Self Care Catalysts is a digital health company with a suite of self-care management applications that provide real-world data to researchers to better understand the patient experience with different conditions and treatments. Full disclosure, I am an advisor to SCC.

Dr. Ethan Basch made his name in patient-reported outcome measures. He’s a leader at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and Director of the Cancer Outcomes Research Program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

One fascinating area Dr. Basch uncovered is that cancer patients actually live longer when they are given simple questionnaires about how they are doing. This phenomenon reminds me a little of the psychology tests where people tend to do better on a variety of test when they know they are being watched. Could patients actually do better just when they report on how they are doing? Knowing that someone cares or that individuals are responsible for their own care by doing surveys may mean people do a better job of caring for themselves. I’d welcome more research to see if the expectation of reporting on your condition should become a standard for care.

In other early research, Dr. Basch found that over half of symptoms go unreported in office visits and during clinical trials. People may not remember a lot about their experience during office visits, so it’s really critical for patients to continue monitoring during home or self-care, particularly when they have ongoing or chronic conditions, like cancer.

Here’s an insightful interview with Dr. Basch where he discusses Epic’s MyChart and the not-so-great state of most tools currently in the marketplace. In the interview, he explains how the ability for patients to communicate with their care team is not just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of life and death for many reasons. Patient communications tools are showing effectiveness for a variety of reasons:

  1. People get better information to care for themselves.

  2. Researchers can better understand how diseases progress in a much more meaningful way.

  3. Researchers can better d how effective medicines are

  4. Emergencies and changes in trajectory can be addressed.

  5. Just documenting conditions lead to better outcomes, better patient satisfaction and in cancer, actually live longer.

Doctors may say that they don’t have time for better patient communications team. To that, in the interview, Dr. Basch says, that the research shows avoiding downstream problems actually makes up for the small amount of time spent on better communication, and the outcomes are being shown with better evidence.

Dr. Basch is an incredible advocate for patients and the patient experience as well as caregiver experiences. He joins Self Care Catalysts to help advance communication with patients tools that are showing real traction in the marketplace. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he and the SCC team move to better understand and improve the patient experience and patient outcomes.

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