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ASCENT Philippines gears up for enrollment of first patients

28 October 2020

ASCENT Philippines put together and distributed all necessary digital adherence technologies and information among 32 intervention facilities and 14 PMDT satellite treatment centers located in the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga. This enabled the run-in phase to start: all facilities are now enrolling patients on these innovative technologies to support them in their treatment adherence.

By providing TB patients with a low-cost digital technology, ASCENT enables real-time remote monitoring of daily intake of medication. “Let’s think out of the box! It’s time for innovative approaches,” states Dr. Paulino Austria, from the Municipality of Arayat, Pampanga, talking about DATs.

Since 2018, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation has implemented several digital adherence technology (DAT) demonstration projects in countries such as the Philippines and Tanzania, as they have been shown to be successful in the fight against TB.

What did ASCENT Philippines achieve?

To kick off the run-in phase, ASCENT Philippines distributed a total of 2,100 pieces of medication sleeves/99DOTS and 404 smart pill boxes/evriMED. ASCENT Philippines also activated the firmware of these pill boxes.

Medication guides were designed by KNCV and printed locally to help TB patients remember the anti-TB drugs they need to take. Stickers that provide dosing instructions for drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB were placed in the boxes’ inside cover. For patients using video-supported treatment/sureAdhere, a laminated placemat that illustrates the dosing instructions for 12 medications was designed and written in English and Tagalog.

To ensure ease of recording, monitoring and reporting adherence behavior of TB patients enrolled on DAT, 46 tablets, connected to the Everwell Hub, were distributed among healthcare workers (HCWs) in each of the participating facilities. The project also provided one tablet each to the NTP teams of DOH NTP Central Office, Center for Health Development 3 (Central Luzon), and the Provincial Health Offices of Bulacan and Pampanga for project monitoring.

We gladly thank the Department of Health National TB Control Program, the Department of Health Center for Health Development 3 (Central Luzon), Provincial Health Office of Bulacan and Provincial Health Office of Pampanga for their involvement in this milestone.

What does this milestone mean for the project?

These steps equipped the intervention facilities with the tools and information support for enrolling patients in the DAT intervention at the project’s run-in phase. This run-in phase will field test processes such as getting patients’ informed consent, patient inclusion and registration, HCWs’ provision of DAT, monitoring treatment adherence, prioritizing and providing differentiated response, and functionality of the DAT adherence platform.

The run-in provides the project team the basis for adjusting and refining the DAT intervention, the DAT adherence platform, the informed consent form, the sub-study questionnaires and the research standard operating procedures.

What’s to come?

Enrollment of patients in the DAT intervention follows and will continue until 30 April 2021. The project team will provide technical assistance to participating health facilities, monitor the implementation of the DAT intervention and document the experience. A chat group for each of the three DATs will be used to track issues and concerns and immediately provide a response.

In May 2021, following the run-in phase, all 32 intervention facilities will enroll patients for the main ASCENT research project.

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