We are living in the era of knowledge and technology. We know more about the human body, what ails it, and how to solve the myriad issues that plague it better than ever before. We are even finding more and more ways to combine our knowledge with the technologies available to treat conditions more effectively.Digital therapeutics (DTx), as this emerging field is called, is one of the most significant developments in the area of healthcare with its promise of achieving better health outcomes.
While DTx systems are already spearheading treatments for several conditions in developing countries, the next step is to improve access to such therapeutic interventions. The democratisation of healthcare includes increasing availability of digital therapeutics for under-served populations, such as those residing in remote areas with limited access to therapy. This will allow governments to help a larger number of patients and at a lower cost.
In most cases, DTx systems work with traditional treatments to augment them. Traditional modes of healthcare struggle to meet the demands and needs of all patients, especially in areas where the ratio of healthcare providers (HCPs) to population is low. This is where digital solutions can save the day. They allowHCPs to reduce the number of face-to-face interventions, while still providing medical access to a large group of patients. They have the added advantage of allowing patients to receive care conveniently in their own homes, thus enhancing their comfort and overall experience.
In addition, digital therapeutics have a number of functional features that enable intelligent data-driven care management and clinical decision support, thus assuring better outcomes for patients.
Record: Doctors’ eyes and ears on the ground
Most DTx systems contain sensors which enable them to record a multitude of biomarkers and health parameters, accurately and consistently. These allow healthcare providers to monitor patients remotely, as well as giving them access to a wealth of valuable information about the patient's health in real world settings.
There are DTx systems available that allow more comprehensive monitoring by recording behavioural data such as food intake, exercise, sleep and key events through out the day, as well. This gives HCPs the information needed to find correlation and perform causative analysis of health progression. This could not be done with just clinical readings without any behavioural context. With more data anda detailed picture of the patient’s life, caregivers can make better informed decisions which are more likely to improve results.
reSET, the first PrescriptionDigital Therapeutic (PDT) to receive authorization from the FDA, is a 90-dayPDT for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) intended to provide cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as an adjunct to a contingency management system. Its dashboard displays detailed information about patients’ use of reSET, including lessons completed, patient-reported substance use, patient-reported cravings and triggers, compliance rewards, and in-clinic data inputs such as urine drug screen results.
Archive: A full medical history, in one click
The advent of DTX makes maintaining Electronic Health Records (abbreviated as EHR)much simpler. Having comprehensive and progressive data at hand makes it easier for the HCP to diagnose and treat a patient’s condition. Being able to refer to an archive of multiple data points about previous diagnostics, treatment and events on one platform also helps the patient articulate his or her needs better to the HCP.
AI-basedEHRs not only provide easy access to data, they also present the data in interactive and easy-to-sort formats. So, HCPs are not overwhelmed by a detailed EHR history; there is an information hierarchy that allows the HCP to quickly grasp the relevant information. With EHRs being digital and shareable, it is possible for interdisciplinary care teams to use them seamlessly.
Inform: Sharing information that is relevant and reliable
While the internet age has also been the information age, this abundance of information has its own drawbacks. The web is cluttered with a host of self-care, wellness and healthcare sites, making it difficult for the ordinary user to know which sources to trust. This problem is solved by DTx platforms that have the capacity to curate content, apply personalization filters, and provide the user with credible health information. These platforms can embed content from experts around the world offering authentic information about wellness and therapies.
Specialised DTx platforms like Bold Health empower users to manage chronic digestive conditions like IBS at home, with care provided through a DTx system, in this case, a mobile application. Users of the Bold Health app can access relevant gut health education and exercises, through coach-supported digital therapeutic programs. They can also reach out to a dedicated clinical multidisciplinary care team with their queries, through text or video, any time they need.
Nudge: Stick to the program
The real-time data and monitoring allowed by DTx devices makes it possible for HCPs to be alerted on time if any significant health event occurs and clinical intervention is needed. The early detection mechanisms can prevent catastrophic events from taking place and ensure better health outcomes overall.
Aside from life-saving capabilities, DTx devices can also provide the nudge needed for patients to adhere to medication protocols and lifestyle modifications.Such guidance can control disease progression and prevent complications, besides making patients feel like they are in charge of their health journey.
For instance, patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in India experienced improved real-world outcomes when receiving culturally relevant content and nudges through the Wellthy CARE DTx platform.
Only one way to go
With the advent of smartphones and improved web connectivity, patients and HCPs are becoming more comfortable with using technology daily. This has led to faster adoption of digital therapeutics. From managing one stage or aspect of the patient’s condition, DTx systems have evolved to touch every stage of the treatment journey, from detection to management. They are also making this journey easier by uniting a host of allied experts like nutritionists and physiotherapists on one platform, creating an easy-to-access support system for patients. So, their use is expected to keep growing as they give patients and caregivers more control over their conditions, and aid in evidence-based decision-making leading to better health outcomes.
This is the objective of companies as well, with their perspectives shifting to see their own benefits in those of the patients. Organisations are working with developers and HCPs to create holistic, system-level solutions to manage a host of health conditions. While many such DTx devices have already met with regulatory approval and are already available, many more are expected to hit the shelves in the coming years.