Digital health solutions
We are expanding patient-focused digital health solutions in key markets. This includes the cardiovascular disease app AI Nurse in China, which was developed in collaboration with Tencent. For more information, please see “Improving heart health in China” below.
Another patient-focused solution is our clinically validated, AI-powered symptom checker for difficult-to-diagnose conditions such as psoriatic arthritis and axial spondyloarthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease that can take up to five years to diagnose. Patients enter their symptoms through a website that provides a detailed report that can be shared with their doctor. The site also gives links to disease information, details about local specialists and, in some cases, a telemedicine consultation. At the end of 2021, users had completed more than 53 000 assessments. Over 12 100 had symptoms consistent with psoriatic arthritis or axial spondyloarthritis, and approximately 2 300 took follow-up actions. The tool was developed with Ada Health, and the scope of the partnership has been expanded to include psoriasis, familial Mediterranean fever and Still’s disease across 13 markets.
We are also scaling projects through the Novartis Biome, a global network of innovation hubs that works with external partners on digital solutions across all aspects of our strategy. OdySight, for example, is a smartphone game that encourages patients with chronic eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration to monitor any deterioration in their vision. OdySight provides insights to doctors, enabling them to make earlier interventions and improve patient outcomes. Developed in France in collaboration with a startup called Tilak Healthcare, OdySight is now helping patients in six countries.
In 2021, we added five Novartis Biome hubs in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Singapore and sub-Saharan Africa, expanding the total network to 11 locations.
Digital solutions for global health
One of the first companies to partner with the Novartis Biome was Hemex Health, which developed a small, automated testing device – already approved for use in Ghana – to quickly detect genetic blood disorders such as sickle cell disease. The Novartis Biome is now working with Hemex Health on an extensive research implementation study to support expanded use of the device in primary care settings in sub-Saharan Africa, which carries 80% of the global disease burden.
We continued to work on an initiative co-founded by Novartis that aims to strengthen the foundations of digital healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Partners include the University of Oslo in Norway, which has developed the world’s largest open-source health and disease information management system for LMICs, known as DHIS2. It is currently in use in more than 73 countries. Together with our partners, we are adding disease metadata packages for our global health flagship programs to DHIS2, along with other enhancements, to enable countries to further reduce supply chain bottlenecks and improve access to medicine. Novartis teams are using the system to support our malaria programs as well.
In addition, we launched a partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to accelerate the use of data and digital technologies for global health solutions. The first use case is a disease surveillance platform for dengue fever, which the World Health Organization has listed as a top 10 global health threat. For more information about how we address global heath challenges, please see the section “Build trust with society.”
Improving heart health in China
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in China. AI Nurse is a digital health app, developed in collaboration with Tencent, that leverages the WeChat social media platform to make it easier for patients with heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases to manage disease progression.
Hospitals enroll patients with the AI Nurse app after treatment for a cardiac event. Upon discharge, patients send regular updates to their doctor via an AI-enabled chatbot, which provides medication reminders and recommendations for diet and exercise. The app alerts the doctor to signs of deterioration, helping to determine if follow-up care is needed.
At the end of 2021, usage of AI Nurse had grown to more than 300 000 patients, from around 20 000 in the prior year. More than 5 000 healthcare professionals and over 1 000 hospitals in at least 200 cities across China are using AI Nurse. We are in the process of expanding AI Nurse to hypertension (high blood pressure).