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Treating thyroid disorders through AI-powered innovations

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Dr. Ihsan Almarzooqi, Co-founder and Managing Director of GluCare Integrated Diabetes Center, discusses the severity of undiagnosed thyroid disorders and how digital transformation can step in to improve conditions for patients.

Modern-day medicine relies on solutions that can shape the future of healthcare. Digital medicine’s ability to influence through innovation is making strides in various healthcare avenues, including disease prediction, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and post-treatment management. For example, for patients who suffer from thyroid disorders, the impact on their day to day lives is significant. Thyroid disorders, which are treatable and frequently curable, are affecting the quality of life of thousands of UAE residents. According to specialists at GluCare Integrated Diabetes Center, one in every 20 persons in the UAE suffers from thyroid disease, the most prevalent of which is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

 According to the Dubai Health Authority, hundreds of individuals seek treatment for thyroid issues each month, with 30 per cent of them unaware of their ailment. Many only seek treatment when they are experiencing acute symptoms. Patients with Hashimoto’s disease have a 30 per cent chance of acquiring thyroid cancer, which is the sixth most frequent malignancy and is reportedly expected to become the third most common cancer in women by 2025.

By harnessing digital technology, specialists can provide patients with a new lease on life that breaks away from convention. Digital therapeutics (DTx) and Remote Continuous Data Monitoring (RCDM) are paving the way for specialists at Glucare Integrated Diabetes Center to offer patients unobtrusive forms of treatment options. Round-the-clock attention can be provided to patients through Artificial Intelligence, along with other forms of treatments that can help avoid unwarranted procedures such as thyroidectomies.

Data-driven personalised medicine and the use of DTx and RCDM methods is taking centre stage, with GluCare utilising wearable AI-assisted bands to remotely monitor patient’s response to thyroid medication as a function of heart rate, sleep patterns, skin temperature and weight changes. The clinical-grade band of the wearables is practical and customised, allowing for remote observation of the process of titrating medication, with GluCare specialists routinely communicating with a patient while receiving online updates. The care team, in conjunction with AI, closely monitor the patient and are on standby to respond to any concerns.

In terms of diagnosing thyroid nodules, GluCare uses a method that combines AI with an endocrinologist for a more sensitive and objective approach towards evaluation instead of an examination or ultrasound. The results produce highly accurate thyroid imaging, reducing the need for painful tissue sample testing.

In a discussion with Omnia Health Magazine, Dr.Ihsan Almarzooqi further comments on the integration of digital medicine and how tech-driven methods are empowering physicians and patients at GluCare.

From a patient perspective, what were the most frustrating setbacks you recognised in the stages of diagnosis? Was there a lack in personalised care, and how is innovation supporting positive patient outcomes?

The most frustrating part of the diagnosis is the ‘one size fits all’ approach. There is very little personalised care when it comes to endocrine disorders such as Hashimoto’s, and physicians usually provide  medications based on a set of given rules (weight, gender, etc.). This therapeutic plan is set without the option for any change until the next appointment and does not engage the patient in any way. When we introduce digital therapeutics (DTx) as part of our care model, we are gathering new patient information that has not been collected before, which allows us to monitor and potentially change therapeutic plans remotely without the need to wait until the next appointment.

For physicians, how crucial has digital transformation been in elevating treatments for thyroid patients?

As the first provider globally to introduce digital therapeutics as part of our standard care model, our physicians have vastly more information streaming back from the patient on a minute-by-minute basis. In tandem with artificial intelligence that processes this information into insights, our care team can take action into real-time treatment plans, as opposed to waiting until the next appointment, which could be one year away. In addition, we can change or tweak therapeutic plans continuously with new pieces of information being collected.

Can you tell us about GluCare’s use of DTx and RCDM? How are these innovations benefiting patients and transforming the way physicians work?

The GluCare model introduces DTx and RCDM and fundamentally changes the way chronic or autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s, are being managed from an episodical, symptomatic approach, which has been practised for the last few decades, to a continuous real-time model of care. Since we are now able to collect large data sets (from IoT devices) that were previously not available, as a provider of care, our responsibility to manage patients does not end when patients leave our facility. Since our care team is connected to patients all the time, physicians are able to manage patients in real-time, and our clinical outcomes, which are vastly better than any traditional provider, prove that. I believe all providers will practise this model of care in the future.

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How vital are tech-driven methods, especially AI integrations, in shaping the future of healthcare? Is data derived from these technologies helping healthcare specialists bridge the digital gap?

It is inevitable that providers who do not collect, interpret, and action patients’ data from new data sources will eventually fail to deliver the best outcomes. Every day, more relevant information from patients is becoming available for interpretation. We believe that we are on the verge of a new domain in medicine, which we term as ‘Datalogy’, that will emerge from these vast data sources. ‘Datologists’ will analyse and interpret data and train AI algorithms to provide primary care teams with predictive insights on every patient. We are practising this now and continue to expand on both the number of data sources and algorithms being trained.

If untreated, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can be fatal. How can awareness be raised to avoid serious implications?

Get tested. Unfortunately, thyroid screening is not as common as it should be, considering its prevalence rate.

For thyroid patients, is hybrid care becoming the preferred form of treatment? How are these learnings being implemented?

For most thyroid conditions, titration of medication is a key factor to improve outcomes. The balancing act of patient re-visits and dosing is a long, expensive, and frustrating methodology. Using our model, for example, in managing hyperthyroidism, we titrate medication remotely and analyse sleep and heart rate data to get to the optimal dosage without the need to constantly visit a facility. As a result, patients remain engaged and connected to us. The results of this hyper-personalised, data-driven approach that we practise are being showcased globally via transparent reporting of our clinical outcomes.

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This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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