The World Health Organization (WHO) published new guidance on tuberculosis care and support. In these guidelines, WHO includes the use of digital adherence technology (DAT) for tuberculosis (TB) treatment, and the need for more studies on DATs in programmatic realities. The ASCENT project is pleased the WHO provided this guidance, since it has been our aim from the start to generate pragmatic evidence that DATs can empower TB-patients during their treatment. We will support the further strengthening of the recommendation by providing our experience and research results.
Digital adherence technologies are designed to help TB patients finish their treatment successfully. DATs are used as an alternative of directly observed treatment (DOT). With DOT, a health care worker watches the medication being taken, either at a health care facility or at a patient’s home. Digital adherence technologies, such as a smart pillbox, medications sleeves/labels, and video observed treatment (VOT), remove some of the heavy logistical, financial and time burdens that DOT places on both patients and health systems.
In correlation to the newly published WHO operational handbook on tuberculosis, Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme states: “It is vital that all people suffering from TB should receive adequate care and support through their pathway to cure, to enable them to complete their treatment and have positive outcomes. This new guidance from WHO puts the people with TB at the heart of the response and represents an important step forward to ensure all those in need attain the highest standard of TB care”.
Although the WHO recommends the use of DAT for TB treatment, they also state that more studies and evaluations on the feasibility and utility of DATs in programmatic realities are needed. Since the start of the ASCENT project, we have been providing experiences and evidence on the use of these technologies in practice and at scale, so that future scale-up is possible and these digital innovations can be available to all TB patients worldwide.
The Unitaid-funded and supported ASCENT project is led by KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation in partnership with The Aurum Institute, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and PATH.