Roche and PatchAi partner on digital tool for cancer patients

Roche’s Italian subsidiary has joined forces with digital health startup PatchAi to roll out an app that aims to support people diagnosed with cancer.

Roche and PatchAi have been working together on the Smart Health Companion (SHC), which was launched to oncology and haematology patients in July 2020, and will now step up their collaboration to offer it more widely.

According to the partners, SHC takes the form of a virtual assistant that engages users through conversation, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, encouraging them to improve the management of their condition by keeping and sharing daily diaries and managing adherence to treatment.

The digital patient support programme (PSP) can also be used to harvest data on how therapies work in real-world settings – for example on symptoms, adverse events, therapy adherence and quality of life – via a system that Roche and PatchAi have called Co-PRO, or ‘conversational reported outcomes’.

This can generate “insights…to improve patients’ experience, clinicians’ workflows and support care delivery”, according to the companies. SHC was the first digital health solution registered as a medical device in Italy.

Preliminary data on patients enrolled in clinical research using PatchAi’s platform shows a protocol adherence up to 95%, which Roche and PatchAi say is up to nine times higher than paper-based approaches.

“As a stakeholder of the health system, we will make SHC available to all our public and private customers,” says Elia Ganzi, integrated customer management director at Roche Italia.

Along with many other countries, Italy has seen a rise in interest in the use of digital health technologies since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a possible means of maintaining patient care when face-to-face consultations with healthcare staff are limited.

The Italian Association of Medical Oncology (AIOM) recently reported a 30% drop in first visits for diagnosis and a 36% decline in physical visits during the initial outbreak.

PatchAI thinks digital telemedicine platforms like SHC can help maintain good communication channels between doctors and patients.

“We will be helping medical teams in rapidly and efficiently supporting patients and translate ‘patient centricity’ into programmes that demonstrate their reliability and effectiveness from a health-economic perspective,” said Alessandro Monterosso, PatchAi’s chief executive and co-founder.

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