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TB medication adherence rates up, thanks to smartphone app

The health department started using the emocha app about a year ago

FRESNO, California - A smartphone app is helping tuberculosis patients in Fresno County stick to their treatment plans. The emocha app has been used by the county health department in the past year and it's helping treatment be more convenient.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, where active TB can be very contagious and even deadly. Even if you only have latent, or dormant TB, treatment can last anywhere from three to 18 months.

As such, health departments nationwide have long been keeping track, making sure all patients are on the road to recovery.

La Xiong Yang is one of those patients. Everyday, she records herself swallowing medications on the emocha app. Before implementing the app last year, staff from the department would have to watch her do it in-person.

With the app, she can do it on her own schedule. Something her husband couldn't do when he was taking TB medication.

“It's not as convenient as using the app. Day-to-day, you have to wait for them to come and give you the medicine,” said Yang.

The county has been using the app for about a year. In a video call, Sebastian Seiguer, the company's CEO, said the app is used to monitor a variety of health conditions.

“We're also using this for Hepatitis-C monitoring, for opioid use disorder,” he said. “We just landed a kidney transplant center as a customer for donor recipients.”

Joe Prado, division manager for the health department, said TB medication adherence rates for the county have significantly increased – from around 20-to-30-percent, to 80-to-90-percent.

“We're treating that latent tuberculosis population a lot better, and active population a lot better,” Prado said. “More effective with less resources.”

Prado adds there have been unexpected benefits from using the app. First, environmental impacts, with their staff now driving hundreds of miles less. It leads to savings, he said the department has saved around $90,000 since using the app.


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