Developments in Digital Therapeutics and Their Future

May 13, 2022
The advent of Digital Therapeutics (DTx) marks a sea change in the way treatment is managed for a host of diseases. They enable real-time monitoring and data collection, which provide opportunities for customized treatment for patients, while improving quality of care and access to it.

This patient-focused, preventive approach is the future of healthcare as its benefits extend beyond patients, to healthcare providers, insurance companies, and employers - the entire ecosystem.

Even as their adoption increases, digital therapeutics are evolving in response to the needs of the ecosystem. A number of factors are driving the developments in this sector. Chief among them is the growing movement towards value-based care.

A Patient-centric Approach to Healthcare

The movement towards value-based care is most beneficial to the patients as compensation for healthcare providers is becoming more outcome-driven, i.e. financial incentives are paid based on how the patients fare under treatment. This ensures the focus is on the quality of care, rather than the quantity. This changed approach is a winning proposition for all involved, and easy to implement with the advent of digital therapeutics.

With 24x7 monitoring and adjustment of treatment with DTx, patients are assured better outcomes and payers can avoid the costs incurred by prolonged recovery or treatment.

A great example of value-based care in action is the offering by EnlaceHealth, a platform connecting payers, providers and patients. With the objective of achieving sustainable healthcare, it works towards making every interaction between the three stakeholders pain-free and mutually beneficial.

Smart Devices: The Emergence of Closed Loop Systems

As the value of DTx solutions becomes more evident, innovations in this sector are increasing. Notable among these developments has been the emergence of closed loop systems or smart devices.

With 24x7 monitoring and adjustment of treatment with DTx, patients are assured better outcomes

These devices when combined with big data analysis provide efficient solutions for disease management. They allow the monitoring of vital signs, decide the correct dose to be given when needed, and in some cases, even enable the administration of the medicine without manual intervention. In effect, these closed loop systems make life less cumbersome and reduce the possibility of errors.

Consider the Bigfoot Unity Diabetes Management System. It is designed to help patients manage insulin-requiring diabetes with multiple daily injection (MDI) therapy. The Bigfoot Unity System consists of first-of-its-kind smart pen caps that incorporate integrated continuous glucose monitor (iCGM) data and health care provider instructions to provide insulin dose for patients who require multiple daily injections (MDI) of insulin, letting the patient access care easily at home.

DTx devices when combined with big data analysis provide efficient solutions for disease management.

The Importance of Standardization & Interoperability

With the efficiency and effectiveness they offer, DTx solutions will become increasingly popular  in the future. Healthcare companies around the world are working at rolling out these solutions for a variety of diseases. The challenge is making all the systems mutually compatible through standardization.

Currently, there is fragmentation of technology in the sector with the diverse operating systems used by different companies not being compatible with competitor’s devices.

Efforts are being undertaken to establish standardized platforms to ensure connectivity of medical applications. The objective is to allow users to seamlessly add devices to their internet of things (IoT).

A company making strides in the right direction is US-based Redox. It offers vendors of Electronic Health Records (EHR) scalable infrastructure that extends EHR integration capabilities to any third-party across all standards and formats. It standardizes healthcare data from any source and provides a single API for exchanging healthcare data with any partner making scalable healthcare integration possible. With Redox enabled, electronic health record vendors can meet all of their growing health data exchange needs with a single connection to Redox.

Active Role of Insurance

Insurance companies are expected to drive growth in the DTx sector while working with healthcare providers and developers of smart devices to promote their use - much as the auto insurance sector is pushing for the adoption of connected vehicles. There are several reasons for them to actively promote digital therapeutics.

Greater adoption of DTx has the potential to decrease the overall cost of medical interventions (for example, reducing the costs associated with emergency, hospital and physician visits, through preventive care or self-management).

With DTx, insurance companies can launch preventive health programs using their wellness services, for a fraction of the cost of conventional programs. Besides, DTx solutions are easily scalable and highly effective.

With 24x7 monitoring and adjustment of treatment with DTx, patients are assured better outcomes

Insurance companies can also use the digital biomarkers or data produced by smartphone apps and wearable devices to conduct quick yet efficient clinical utility studies. These can be used for underwriting functions, product development, and analysis of population health outcomes.

Partnerships between insurance providers and DTx companies are already flourishing. Recently, WPS (Wisconsin Physicians Service) Health Insurance and WPS Health Plan selected Welldoc, a trailblazer in digital health, to offer a new, comprehensive chronic conditions digital health solution to a pilot group of self-funded employers in Wisconsin and Illinois.

Making Healthcare Inclusive

To improve the landscape of healthcare and make DTx truly profitable, it is necessary to promote their widespread use.

Currently, remote real-time monitoring devices make financial and clinical sense only for a select group of high-risk patients. However, there is an increasing number of chronically ill patients who require remote care. Since DTx can monitor and often treat patients in their own homes, they are ideal for people living in remote areas. Smart devices are not only the most efficient solution for managing these patients’ conditions, in the long term, they will also prove financially viable.

Extending the Reach of DTx

While the DTx solutions available in the market today make the most of patients’ biometric data, they do not consider other risk factors and social determinants of health. The impact of remote patient monitoring solutions would be increased by developing care modules that are able to take these factors into account.

People who most need remote interventions are often older patients, who are less conversant with technology.

To make DTx solutions more effective in monitoring them, the devices need to be easier-to-use and more accessible, not requiring patients or providers to learn how to use new technologies.

Opportunities for the Future

The pandemic has helped people become more comfortable with digital healthcare solutions, driving investment in the sector. Payers and providers are recognising the benefits of adoption of remote health management services. This is the time for companies to explore how new digital technologies like AR/VR and voice tech can be integrated into DTx solutions to make them more effective and easy-to-use so healthcare can be made more affordable and accessible for all.

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