A Patient Journey Solution (Part 3): Digitally Enabled V1C
A solution to convoluted autoimmune patient journeys?

Digitally enabled, virtual first care (V1C) offers a potential solution to convoluted autoimmune patient journeys. V1C especially offers significant advantages for autoimmune and inflammatory disease (AIID) patients in accessing specialized care. Virtual specialist practices get patients to a rheumatologist or gastroenterologist much faster (days rather than months) and with less friction from travel, child & work hassles. A growing number of digital health providers in this space adopt a more holistic approach to care. These providers prioritize improved care coordination and place a greater emphasis on lifestyle interventions, without eschewing medications. For example, some V1C programs provide patients with health coaches to support them throughout their journeys, assisting with schedule coordination & self-care.

Other V1C practices integrate lifestyle changes into their initial care plans. Staffing (or networking with) nutritionists, dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, mental health professionals, and other specialists (dermatologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists) enables comprehensive patient support to achieve faster remission. The key advantage of V1C is that multiple specialists and clinicians can collaborate within the same digitally supported framework. This lifts some of the burden of managing disease from patients’ shoulders. Through V1C, autoimmune patients can benefit from streamlined access to specialized care and integrated support from a multidisciplinary team. Additionally, V1C offers a more unified and patient-centered approach to disease management.

A Streamlined Patient Journey

In an ideal scenario, people would know their autoimmune risk family history and genomics, long before experiencing any symptoms. They and their primary care providers (PCPs) would be alert to triggering events, such as post-infection syndromes, like long covid and EBV-triggered lupus. This would mean that, as soon as symptoms emerge, patients & physicians can start the diagnostic process, before symptoms worsen as disease progresses.

If more people were aware of autoimmune conditions and alert to early symptoms, they could research online to find information. This information could prompt them to make lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, increased exercise, and avoiding triggers. They could easily find a digital autoimmune virtual care platform, where they can have appointments scheduled within days. Alternatively, PCPs or healthcare plans could refer patients to such platforms as autoimmune concerns arise. Ideally, using analytics, plans would routinely screen people for risk, alert them and their PCPs to the possibility of autoimmune disease, and schedule prompt virtual specialist visits.

During virtual appointments, patients meet with specialists who validate and explain their symptoms. The specialist could directly order diagnostic tests that cover a broad range of potential autoimmune diseases. Based on test results, patient-reported symptoms, and clinical support, AIs trained in autoimmune can help specialists devise better initial care plans. These care plans should encompass both medications and lifestyle interventions and involve patients in setting treatment goals.

To guide medication selection, specialists could use multiple tools: blood test results, imaging, biomarkers, digital biomarkers, and patient genomics. Additionally, lifestyle interventions should be the standard of care as part of this holistic approach. Health coaches or mobile patient apps could facilitate day-to-day monitoring of symptoms, diet, activity, exercise, sleep, mood, and overall quality of life.

The virtual care team would include dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, exercise coaches, mental health professionals, sleep specialists, and others. These lifestyle changes can be supported through apps or AIs, especially once human clinicians have set up the program. Additional specialists could join the team as needed, such as dermatologists and rheumatologists co-managing psoriatic arthritis, to address all aspects of the disease and the patient. With such a comprehensive approach, more patients can achieve remission (and that should be a major goal of clinicians), supporting the tapering or discontinuation of some drugs.

Long-term monitoring to anticipate flares and promptly prevent or treat them would be built into these programs. By maintaining ongoing care and support, autoimmune patients can effectively manage their condition and lead healthier lives.

Authors: DrBonnie360, Ellen M Martin, & Ellie Duvall

We approach these thought leadership posts from our multi-lens perspectives

  • DrBonnie360: Digital/virtual health consultant, clinical dentist, Wall Street analyst, patient & advocate.  
  • Ellen M Martin: Consultant, editor, life science finance/IR/marcomm, autoimmune caretaker.
  • Ellie Duvall: Digital health equity research intern, Physiological Sciences Undergraduate Student at UCLA.

Strategic Consulting & Professional Services

We provide professional consulting services to investment, emerging, and established companies. Our work bridges silos and fills gaps to help our clients improve care for AIID patients and reduce costs. Informed by patient and caretaker perspectives, we urge investors & clients to integrate the best of digital, conventional, and functional medicine into AIID care delivery.

  • We help our clients leverage digital innovations into V1C for AIID patients. 
  • Our subject matter expertise includes: oral health, microbiome, autoimmune patient journeys, competitive landscape analysis, strategic positioning & messaging, digital health, and self-hacking.
  • We have decades of experience in finance, marketing, and communications for dozens of healthcare and life sciences organizations, emerging and established.
  • Our backgrounds include clinical dentistry, osteology, biotech IR/PR, marcomm, content creation, strategic consulting, and autoimmune advocacy.

Contact us to help you map your market landscape and understand patients’ unmet needs. Also, we can help you clarify and articulate your company’s market position and differentiators. Long before COVID-19, we were facilitating virtual sessions. We also create compelling content: articles, blog posts, collateral, e-books, web copy, and white papers. Our Autoimmune Connect/DrBonnie360 website showcases our own content.


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