Digital therapeutics is a digital health category defined by the Digital Therapeutics Alliance as products that deliver evidence-based therapeutic interventions to patients that are driven by software programs of high quality to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease. This exciting advancement will create opportunities to increase patients’ awareness about their health and their ability to play a more active role in managing their disease as compared to now, thereby creating the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce the demands on healthcare systems as compared to traditional pharmacological interventions.
Dr. Arbinder Singal, Pediatric Urologist, Co-founder/ CEO, Fitterfly- Digital Health & Therapeutics, is an AIIMS Gold medalist. Fitterfly is a HealthTech startup, working in the field of Digital Therapeutics and digital health. Prior to Fitterfly, Dr. Arbinder was involved in setting up MediAngels.com which is a digital health portal that was acquired by 1mg and two hospitals, one of which was also acquired last year.
Fitterfly works on the goal of - to make living healthy a lifelong habit. The managing team comprises senior doctors, nutritionists, fitness experts, management experts, and technologists working together with the sole aim of creating a healthy tomorrow for society at large. The Fitterfly Wellness App is based on digital therapeutic methods for managing diabetes, PCOS, clinical obesity, child nutrition, general wellness, pregnancy, and lactation.
Felt the need to intervene as 80% of the diseases are lifestyle-related
Dr. Arbinder sheds light on the topic “Working as a doctor both on digital health service and performing surgeries at hospitals, it led to a realization between what the doctors expect and what actually happens on the ground. So typically when a doctor is counseling a patient, we often give advice on lifestyle modification, we expect the patient to follow but it falls on deaf ears, maybe due to no motivation. Of all the diseases which are present in mankind almost 80% are lifestyle-related, be it diabetes, obesity, heart issues, hypertension, they all are heavily influenced by a lifestyle so we wanted to challenge the status quo,” he says.
Fitterfly is a ‘Digital Therapeutic Health Platform’
Dr. Arbinder throws light on how Fitterfly runs patient support and wellness programs, “Currently the word ‘wellness’ is the most abused word I would say. People are calling themselves wellness but there is no data around that. So we created a digital health platform where we can track data from the patients, educate them, and track their outcomes. This is called the ‘Digital Therapeutic Health Platform’ which is led by an expert coach and it is customized for every patient,” he says.
Difference between digital health and digital therapeutic health
Dr. Arbinder explains, “Typically Digital Health means where we give information to the patient through telehealth, mobile health, but digital therapeutic is a totally different ballgame. It is a subset of digital health, but if you have established the technological platform, processes, content, patient outcomes have to be scientifically validated, then finally you can call yourself a digital therapeutic company. Only uploading information related to health on your website or app doesn’t make you a digital health platform, ” he says.
Dunking the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy at Fitterfly
Dr. Arbinder explains, “At Fitterfly, we have made a personalized approach for every patient from the moment they join us. For example, I have joined a digital health program and I am a pre-diabetic patient, but I am also getting information about diabetes medications and insulin which is not relevant to me as a pre-diabetic patient so we understand:
- Type of diabetes - pre-diabetes, type-1 or type-2 diabetes or MODY
- Fitness level - beginner, advance, or fitness fanatics
- Knowledge about their condition
- Languages they speak
- Food preferences
So I believe personalization is the key. The time has come when technology can be used for dunking the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy and focus on personalizing it for every patient and technology makes it possible. It is the intent which has to be there to do that and that is the core of our system at Fitterfly,” he says.
While treating one condition, other conditions might spring up
Dr. Arbinder explains “In India, 70% of hypertension is underdiagnosed and sleep apneas are under-diagnosed. So when you start treating a condition it can happen that you find other conditions and you can solve them and improve the patient’s life condition that is the reason why we are not focused not only on managing the blood sugar levels but also on helping them overall,” he says.
Strive to increase value in my skill sets every day
Dr. Arbinder feels that to be better each day than yesterday is what motivates him. “I keep thinking as to how I can increase the value in my skill sets. If you enjoy the work you do, it is like not working at all so every single day I am on the edge of innovation, pushing myself to do something. In my lifetime if I work as a surgeon, I might be able to impact the lives of just 20,000 kids but at Fitterfly I have the chance to impact the lives of 20,000 people every single day and this realization came through a very unfortunate incident wherein I met with an accident and I had a wrist fracture. So in those 10 weeks completely changed my life, my writing skills became better, I became a better counselor to my patients, and more accepting of my patients. And that motivation really led me to create something that is agnostic of my present, agnostic of my physical aspects and that is a big motivation for me and I believe everybody should have multiple skills so I think I am a firm believer that your skills can go on to impact a larger group of people every single day,” he says.
Experience as a TEDx Speaker
Dr. Arbinder recollects his experience as a TEDx speaker, “I was invited to this TEDx event at Ranchi where I spoke on the overarching topic ‘Breaking Barriers in Healthcare’. I spoke on the challenges while working in a hospital and I enjoyed being a TEDx speaker. In fact, there were so many other people on the platform and it was nice to see that doctors are not the only ‘God’ there are so many other people who are doing amazing jobs out in the world and impacting others’ lives. So it was enriching, humbling, and morale-boosting,” he says.
COVID has led to a lot of positive changes
“Nobody knows when the COVID situation will end, and in a way it has worked out in our minds, we have slowly adjusted to this in our heads. I cannot imagine a situation where we can do so much work sitting remotely and using technology. Employees are happy as they are getting more time with their families, saving money spent on travel and so on. In the healthcare industry, a lot can be done remotely using the technology; patients are also willing to do teleconsultations so I think it has led to a lot of innovations in terms of how people are interacting with technology and using it. We prepped our team to be more empathetic towards our patients, listen more, give them more time, and impact their outcomes well. Also focusing more on the employees and telling them that their job is safe makes them feel relieved and they really do come up with good ideas sometimes. So just managing the resources, focusing on the core mission which is the patient outcome has really helped us tide through this,” says Dr. Arbinder.
Fitterfly Wellness App now helps in taking care of micronutrients for increasing immunity
Dr. Arbinder explains that diabetes is a condition that lowers your immunity, “In fact at one of the hospitals out of all the ICU patients who required admission for COVID, almost 70-80% were diabetic or heart disease patients. These patients when they cannot go to the hospital often lose track of their glycaemic control, so a platform like Fitterfly really helps them to stay in touch with their coaches and manage their blood sugars. We have launched a very interesting program called the ‘Immunity Program’ as micronutrients, sleep, stress and fitness impact our immunity and we have started tracking those things and built a calculator which was launched last week, so as to help people design their diets around it so as to increase their immunity. The Fitterfly Wellness App is the first of its kind app in India and GCC countries which can give a detailed analysis of micronutrients in the diet, so people can download it, maintain a food diary and get nutrition information for their skin, hair loss, diabetes, pregnancy, etc,” he says.
Edited By Rabia Mistry Mulla