APRIL 2020 - Looking for an app to help your patients, your co-workers or yourself cope with anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis? Not sure which one to pick, out of the thousands that are available?
Go to Therappx for the answer. Founded in 2018 by Canadian pharmacists with a passion for integrating digital health tools into daily practice, the company’s software developers have built a framework that uses artificial intelligence to seek out and sort through digital tools as they become available in the market. Those with potential clinical value are screened further by the pharmacy team, and then the most promising tools go to a panel of clinicians for expert review. The end result is a suite of the latest, best-in-class digital tools that are evidence-based and safe for patients, and that healthcare practitioners can recommend with confidence.
At the start of the year Therappx was working on a matching algorithm so that healthcare providers could narrow down their recommendations even further, based on patients’ individual needs and goals. “What we’ve learned in practice so far with that no one size fits all. A pharmacist who wants to implement a digital program will not be successful if he recommends the same digital product to everybody,” explained Cardinal.
Patients would answer a few simple questions, such as their healthcare goals, their preferred language and their type of device. The new Therappx tool would then put forward the app that most closely matches their needs, with a few alternates for consideration.
And then along came COVID-19.
|Michael Cardinal, Therappx
Development kicked into high gear and Therappx poured its efforts into evaluating and curating apps for anxiety. And while the company normally remains behind the scenes, offering its services through clients such as pharmacies, in this case it decided to go public.
“We decided to release our expertise to the general public to make sure people have access to the right tools for their needs at the moment, because anxiety and stress are likely the most important burden for the public right now,” said Michael Cardinal, chief clinical officer at Therappx and a relief pharmacist in community pharmacy.
Of course, pharmacists can still use the tool when caring for patients. “When they dispense a drug for insomnia, anxiety, stress or even depression, when there is a component of anxiety related to the depression, pharmacists can access the tool and walk through it based on the needs of the patient,” said Cardinal.
The Therappx tool for anxiety will also break ground in the gathering of real-world evidence. It will periodically ask users if they would like to complete the GAD-7 self-assessment questionnaire, a user-friendly, validated tool used in clinical practice. Participation is always voluntary and results are anonymized. “We can fine-tune our curation process and recommendation systems even further,” said Cardinal.
Coming next is an online platform that pharmacists will be able to access to see how their patients are doing, for patients who consent to share their personal information. “Pharmacists can follow patients through time and provide more effective and appropriate clinical interventions,” said Cardinal.
Therappx is partnering with Line Guenette, a researcher at Laval University, to demonstrate that this platform and other components will help pharmacists incorporate digital health tools into daily practice.
The Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy is a funding partner for this work. "CFP is thrilled to be able to support the leading-edge work of Therappx. And we thank them for their initiative to develop the tool for anxiety apps as a way to support frontline pharmacy staff during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Dayle Acorn, Executive Director of CFP.
“The coming months will be very exciting,” noted Cardinal. “We can’t thank CFP enough for helping to make it all happen.”
In 2019, CFP also awarded Alexandre Chagnon, CEO of Therappx, a Wellspring Pharmacy Leadership Award, which he used to develop an accredited webinar to help pharmacists incorporate digital health tools into patient care. It is available at no cost to pharmacists.