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Digital transformation: how technologies and digital innovation help us make a meaningful impact to people living with rheumatic diseases

Posted by
John Ioannou, Global Medical Affairs Rheumatology

Innovation in rheumatology has made significant strides in recent years with more treatments available and improved patient outcomes. However, despite this progress, unmet needs persist with some people not achieving optimal care. To address remaining gaps and elevate care for people living with rheumatic conditions, we need to create strong partnerships with innovation at the core.

At UCB, we are proud of our longstanding commitment to support the evolving needs of the rheumatology ecosystem. By building on our expertise and over 30 years of research, we embrace the possibility of transforming the lives of people with rheumatic diseases – such as psoriatic arthritis (PsA), axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) and osteoporosis. 

To achieve our ambitious goals, we are constantly looking to improve our understanding of rheumatology diseases and advance patient care. We embed cutting-edge technologies and digital innovation into everyday patient care to deliver personalized patient experiences, help facilitate early intervention and reduce diagnosis time.

This type of innovation can be seen across our rheumatology business. In 2021, we outlicensed Bonebot, now known as “Flamingo”, – an AI technology used to detect the presence of “silent” or asymptomatic fractures in the spine – to ImageBiopsy Lab to integrate into its existing hospital platform to increase reporting of vertebral fractures caused by underlying osteoporosis. Worldwide, over 200 million people are affected by osteoporosis, resulting in more than 8.9 million fragility fractures each year. Despite its prevalence, 80% of individuals who have experienced at least one fracture because of osteoporosis are neither identified nor treated. Bonebot automatically assists in the identification of vertebral fractures, which frequently go unreported, during routine CT scans. By improving early fracture identification we’re helping to close the osteoporosis global treatment gap.

We are committed to creating value for patients, and digital transformation is an enabler to do this. Our FASTRAX program focuses on three leading digital health platforms and addresses three breakpoints in the patient journey: primary care physicians not recognizing inflammatory pain; patients being lost through incorrect assessment and triage; and inadequate access to expert rheumatology care. We are working with our partners to explore innovative treatment paradigms to double remission rates by 2030.

As the ultimate focus of everything we do, we work closely with patients to co-create solutions which put their needs at the center. As an example of this in progress, UCB’s patient-centered approach enabled the development of FATIGUE-PRO, a novel patient-reported outcome (PRO) instrument to measure fatigue in people living with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Developed in tandem with patients, the instrument comprises three scales: physical fatigue, mental and cognitive fatigue, and susceptibility to fatigue and aims to improve the recording and management of fatigue.

In our quest to improve clinical understanding, we recently signed a research collaboration agreement with EUROSpA. EUROSpA is the largest European research scientific collaboration network with 16 European registries collecting data from people living with axSpA and PsA. This research agreement will focus on understanding the impact of an uncontrolled disease on patients across Europe in axSpA to identify and address the unmet needs patients face.  

Our work doesn’t stop here. We know the value of working in collaboration and at UCB we’re committed to addressing some of the most complex challenges in healthcare. By maximizing the value of our trailblazing science, insights, and pipeline through partnerships we’re aiming to halve diagnosis time, increase remission rate and accelerate digital solutions. Together, we can make a bigger, more long-lasting impact on the future of rheumatology treatment and the lives of patients. 

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