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San Diego County offers mobile app for tuberculosis treatment

REGION — San Diego County public health officials said today a mobile app that allows tuberculosis patients to confirm they’re taking their medication as indicated has reduced the necessity of in-person monitoring.

Roughly a year ago, the County Tuberculosis Control Program unveiled the “emocha” app that allows non-contagious TB patients to upload a video of themselves taking their medication from anywhere and at any time, which has allowed it to focus on more in-depth visits.

Historically, public health officials had to drive to tuberculosis patients to assure they were taking the prescribed daily antibiotics in the correct way. Typical tuberculosis treatment lasts between six and nine months but can last as long as 18 months, depending on severity of the case.

The app’s usage of “video directly observed therapy” is the result of several years of research at UC San Diego. The app is available in 21 languages and requires only one visit from a nurse to use. Of the roughly 140 patients being treated for tuberculosis at any given time, about half use the
app, according to the county.

From 2013 to 2017, 231 cases of tuberculosis were reported annually in San Diego County, on average. Most patients were infected earlier in life; a small percentage of cases are the result of local exposure or transmission, according to county health officials.

The county spent $72,000 using the app in its first year of availability, but officials say the cost was offset by the reduced need for in- person monitoring.

“With the video system, medication compliance has greatly improved and that is a reassurance to the public,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.

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