DTx solutions are being used to treat a host of conditions, at various stages in the treatment journey. Yet, the field is vast and largely uncharted. So, which way will it grow? Research into the market and consumer needs suggests that major changes will happen in three critical areas.
Digital therapeutics today can connect patients to doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, insurance providers and even other patients. They can deliver treatment, monitor biomarkers, and provide therapy. In fact, DTx tools offeringCognitive Behavioural Therapy and Diabetes Mellitus treatment are already quite popular in several countries. DTx platforms that offer tele-health solutions, e-consultations and scheduling - in effect, extending the in-clinic experience- have really taken off in the past couple of years.
This growth journey seems set to continue as DTx is considered a mutually beneficial solution by all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. They are a valuable resource even for medical research, as DTx systems make data gathering and analysis more efficient.
But there are speed bumps that must be addressed for them to gain widespread acceptance.Fundamental concerns have arisen with regard to each of the three pillars that hold up this ecosystem: connected devices, digital platforms, data processing.Can these concerns be turned into opportunities for growth? Identifying them and understanding their importance is the first step to making things better.
- Connected devices
Smartwatches, continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and insulin pumps are arguably the most popular connected devices with therapeutic applications, and their utility cannot be disputed. However, healthcare providers (HCPs) cannot rely on them without assurance of the validity of their data and their clinical accuracy.Testing and certification for these devices by a third-party or regulatory body would go a long way in establishing trust.
Some connected devices like CGM can generate an overwhelming volume of raw data for the HCP to decipher. For these devices to be truly useful, it is vital that the data is uploaded to a digital platform, processed and displayed as summarised, action-oriented snippets.
The third key opportunity for growth in this sector is making connected devices more affordable. Acquiring these devices and ancillary consumables can be a significant expense, especially for chronic patients. Bringing down their price(by moving to a volume-based model or tying up with insurance providers) will help promote their adoption, and development in the sector.
- Digital platforms
One of the issues HCPs have with these platforms is that they can be inundated with notifications from worried patients and caregivers. Getting HCPs to adopt DTx will be a challenge if they find them an inconvenience. The acquisition cost associated with digital platforms makes it imperative that they offer a positive value equation to all users.
A more fundamental concern raised by HCPs and institutions is that many of them use their own digital platforms and are unwilling to use another for the same dataset. This is where digital platforms that easily integrate with leading EHR systems can make a difference.
Platforms that can offer interoperability along with assurance of privacy and data security will dominate the market in the years to come. With the amount of personal data collected by these platforms, security is rightly a major concern for patients and healthcare providers.
- Data processing & SaMD
Software asa Medical Device (SaMD) is an up and coming sub-segment of digital health solutions. It refers to a class of software that can carry out medical functions on a general purpose (non-medical) platform, without the need for any medical hardware. These software applications (that can even run on mobile phones)gather and analyse data with the intent to cure, mitigate or prevent disease.
SaMD systems are already being used to summarise data or sort it for ease of understanding.The next step is for their algorithms to optimise the use of data and be customised for various specialities so they can be of more use to experts.There is an opportunity for DTx companies to develop algorithms that generate actionable insights for HCPs, while complying with regulatory frameworks.
The developmental opportunities prioritised by different stakeholders are understandably different. Patients want DTx systems that provide credible information and greater control over their symptoms and treatment. HCPs see DTx systems that can promise clinically accurate and actionable insights as a priority. Data security and ease of use feature on both their wish lists. Clearly, DTx systems with high learning and adoption barriers are not likely to find many takers in these groups.
Integrating the needs of different stakeholders into one vision for DTx is the immediate need of the day. To make the systems efficient, useful and accessible for patients, caregivers, HCPs and allied experts, developers need to study the needs of all these stakeholders, and use the results as a foundation for development.
The other area in which immediate efforts are needed is standardisation. DTx devices and systems that are compatible with existing popular EHR systems are more likely to be adopted. Developers need to explore popular EHR systems in use while developing new DTx products.
Despite these concerns, the prognosis for this sector is excellent, as most of these issues can be seen as opportunities for growth