The Rise of Digital Therapeutics

Introduction

Technology has greatly transformed the way we go about our daily lives. From the way people communicate with one another to AI-driven apps and software, technology has only increased efficiency in numerous industries.

Along the same lines, we’re witnessing similar ground-breaking technology in the health care and pharmaceutical industry. Digital therapeutics (also known as DTx) are becoming more popular and utilized by physicians and researchers alike to ensure patients have greater access to health care services and providers. With more interest in digital therapeutics and evidence to support its effectiveness in health care, digital therapeutic companies grew by 40% and reached over $1 billion in investments. Keep on reading to learn more about digital therapeutics and the impact it’s having on health care.

 

What Are Digital Therapeutics?

Digital therapeutics are high-quality, and data-driven software that helps patients treat, manage and even prevent a wide array of chronic illnesses and health diseases. These digital products are always based on evidence and organized data before implementation and have been used to treat mental health conditions, diabetes, and more. To increase its safety and efficacy, the software is always reviewed and approved by medical professionals and designers of the software. While digital therapeutics can be used independently to treat various health conditions, physicians often prescribe digital therapeutics alongside other interventions such as other medical devices, therapies, and necessary medication.

Digital therapeutics holds a unique position in the health industry that differs from wearable technology such as Fitbit or monitoring health apps. Unlike wearable technology, digital therapeutics provide a measurable benefit that helps relieve or cure a health disorder while wearable tech does not. For example, digital therapeutics can take the form of an app that indicates how much medication you need to stabilize your blood sugar or a video game based digital product that helps relieve children with ADHD. Overall, digital therapeutics are meant to help patients modify an aspect of their lifestyle to relieve a health disorder or improve the most positive health outcome.

 

The Benefits of Digital Therapeutics in Health Care

While digital therapeutics started gaining traction in the last few years, the pandemic unveiled the pitfalls and shortcomings in the health care infrastructure. Patients, now more than ever, require more seamless and accessible health care services. Given the demand in access to health care and treatment, stakeholders are investing more of their time and interest into digital therapeutics. Below are the major benefits of Digital Therapeutics.

Greater Access to Health Care Services

There are always capacity limits when it comes to meeting a physician or medical professional in person. Oftentimes, seeing a specialized health care professional can take weeks and months. This is even more prevalent for individuals living in rural areas who have a harder time accessing the health services they need. Death rates were higher among those living in rural areas in comparison to those living in urban settings for the same seven diseases.

However, with the utilization of digital therapeutics, patients can still receive medical treatment and services from remote areas. Since the majority of people own a mobile device, they can receive medical assistance from anywhere. For example, many companies developed apps and websites to treat diabetes with tailored, and data-driven medical guidance. The app accurately monitors blood glucose levels and provide patients with treatment as well. Beyond access, many digital therapeutics are offered in multiple languages to make sure anyone with English as a second language can still make use of the technology.

Tailored and Data-driven

No two patients are ever the same – this also directly applies to health conditions. Digital therapeutics utilizes AI and other data sources to provide the most accurate and beneficial health measures to ensure patients receive treatment and prevention measures suited for them. Alternatively, some mental health-focused digital therapeutics utilize well-supported research to develop effective video-based games and apps to provide optimal treatment. Medical professionals can then use treatment progression to provide further therapeutics to patients.

Regardless, patients will receive the best treatment plan when digital therapeutics are combined with other forms of medical therapy. Like any pharmaceutical product or medication, digital therapeutics are also subject to intensive clinical trials and journal reviews to ensure they deliver optimal treatment. The software must also comply with the patient code of ethics and undergoes risk-based assessment. As such, this ensures that these therapeutics have a low-risk and beneficial outcome.

Innovative Solutions

With digitalized solutions in the picture, the number of creative treatments pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals can provide is limitless. A variety of digital therapeutics are administered as apps, online software, VR apps, and so much more. As such, patients can easily access medical services right from their mobile devices.

Additionally, newer forms of technology allow for more accurate reading and follow-up on patients. For example, The Breezhaler is a recently EU approved health device created by Novartis. The sensor attached to the inhaler tracks the amount of inhaled medication and monitors when the patient utilizes the device. From here, healthcare providers can monitor when the patient’s record. This provides them with accurate data tracking and avoids having patients self-monitor when they use the inhaler. Technology in this situation makes life easier for the patient and streamlines the process for healthcare professionals.

Digital Therapeutics to Look Out For

Since the rise and popularity of digital therapeutics, more pharmaceutical start-ups have invested their energy into developing easy to use digital therapeutics. With this comes an influx of new digital software meant to prevent and manage human diseases and conditions. Below are a few exciting digital therapeutics that are coming up in the industry.

  1. Somryst (Pear Therapeutics)– Combating insomnia

Insomnia is often correlated to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, 50 -80% of patients in need of psychiatric care often deal with chronic sleeping problems. Pear Therapeutics designed an FDA-cleared app known as Somryst which helps deliver cognitive behavioral therapy to patients. This mobile app helps patients track their sleeping patterns, provides training videos for better sleep and more. In a placebo-controlled experiment, Somryst improved sleep levels for 76% of users in the trial.

  1. BlueStar (WellDoc)– Treating Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is one of the leading chronic health disorders in America. To make treatment more accessible to patients, Welldoc developed BlueStar. BlueStar is an app powered by AI which collects and analyzes patient data and qualitative research. The platform then provides tailored coaching and recommendations to patients. In multiple studies done with the app, it was shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels over three months (also known as an A1c test). 

 

  1. Theraxium (Voluntis) – Anticancer treatment symptom management

Cancer patients often suffer from side effects relating to cancer treatment. However, these side effects resemble autoimmune diseases that could cause further harm to patients. Voluntis is  creating software that helps patients monitor side effects and symptoms. The software lets patients know of real-time recommendations and alerts medical professionals when side effects reach severe levels.

Conclusion

Digital therapeutics are a new class of therapies used to treat and prevent all kinds of medical conditions. Within a few short years, we have witnessed tremendous developments within the field. As greater partnerships take shape between pharmaceuticals, stakeholders and medical professionals, the greater the innovation and adoption we are expecting to witness with digital therapeutics.

Author: Manish Singhal, MD. Manish has nearly two decades experience in international business development and a penchant for the intersection of entrepreneurism and multidisciplinary solutions for complex problems.

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