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What Are Digital Therapeutics?

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Digital therapeutics
Medical worker putting finger clip pulse oximeter on patient to measure oxygen saturation of blood

Did you know that 30 percent of prescriptions for chronic health conditions never get filled? Furthermore, 50 percent of those prescriptions are not taken as directed. So how do healthcare providers increase compliance among their patients?

With new technological advancements, healthcare, pharma, and device manufacturing companies have developed ways to transform the patient experience. The emerging field of digital therapeutics is a practice in healthcare that focuses on leveraging technology to enhance the effectiveness of medical treatments, improve patient outcomes, and manage patient care and wellness.

Software for Healthcare

Digital therapeutics are a relatively new concept, but are quickly becoming a vital part of the medical field. These technologies can assist with treating, managing, and preventing a medical diagnosis or disease.

Digital therapeutics use data generated by wearable devices that may track a patient’s lifestyle habits, sleep cycles, diet, and other health-related metrics. These data points are used to develop a baseline of personal information, and the software uses this information to predict potential health problems or irregularities even before the patient is aware of health-related issues.

To provide a viable solution, a digital therapeutic has to be able to connect to multiple medical and diagnostic tools, such as wearables. This information must then be transmitted to appropriate medical personnel in real-time.

To many, the digital therapeutics market may sound similar to wellness apps that are available in various app stores. However, even though some characteristics are shared between the two, digital therapeutics are in a separate class, with key differentiators.

Digital therapeutics are a type of software that are sophisticated and provide evidence-based interventions for health conditions. Additionally, these tools need approval by a regulatory body [e.g., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)], making them regulated products. At times these digital therapeutic tools can even serve as a suitable substitute for pharmacotherapy.

Digital Therapeutics Provide Personalized Care

Personalization is the name of the game when it comes to healthcare, and digital therapeutics are no exception. Digital therapeutics help to personalize treatment through a combination of personal and medical data, which can be aggregated in an effort to predict the best treatment options while accounting for the patient’s lifestyle.

There are several ways that health data can be collected. It can be collected from patients directly, from electronic health records (E.H.R.), patient registries, and digital health tools. The collected data can be used as both a progress report and a preventative measure.

For example, if you are a provider and working with a device or program that tracks your patient’s diet, you are able to see how your patient is progressing with their food choices over a period of time. You can also develop preventative steps your patient can take based on their dietary choices. The tool can also help you, as a provider, establish goals for your patient that are tailored to their lifestyle.

The main point of digital therapeutics is to tailor the treatment plan to suit a patient’s specific health needs and to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.

Digital Therapeutics Are Cost-Effective

A challenge the American healthcare system faces is the cost of medical treatments and prescriptions. In fact, around 112 million Americans struggle with the ability to pay for healthcare services.

Digital therapeutics have high appeal in the healthcare space due to their demonstrated cost-effectiveness.

By leveraging technology, digital therapeutics can help to provide better treatment and care at a lower cost. When it comes to treating a patient, you want to do everything in your power to ensure that you don’t only treat the acute issue, but also prevent it from happening again.

Having access to every patient’s clinical history will also make it easier to monitor the progress of specific treatments and see how effective they are. Furthermore, partnerships may be established between digital therapeutics companies, research organizations, and pharmaceutical companies, allowing for data sharing capabilities and agreements in a secure and legal framework.

These capabilities promote innovation, which leads to better products and a better treatment experience.

If you can treat a patient effectively, it will also reduce total healthcare costs because the treatment will help prevent hospitalizations. Healthcare costs get more expensive when health conditions aren’t managed and treated early on. Tertiary care incurs the highest level of cost.

Digital Therapeutics Create a Partnership Between Doctors and Patients

When a doctor and patient work together to create a treatment plan, it can help ease any discomfort the patient has with their current treatment. By monitoring critical indicators during treatment, digital therapeutics can alert doctors to abnormalities that might affect these indicators.

If a doctor notices a problem, then together with the patient, they can alter the treatment to avoid complications. This is not limited to just pharmaceutical therapies.

Doctors can apply changes to various aspects of treatment for many types of diseases and treatments. With the right treatment plan in place, a patient can see a pronounced disease or health condition become manageable throughout their lifetime.

Digital Therapeutics Improve Clinical Outcomes

Clinical outcome improvements are one of the most significant benefits of digital therapeutics. Being able to monitor the progress of treatment and key health indicators will make it easier to adjust the treatment plan if needed.

For example, if a patient has a heart condition that is getting treated, there are a wide range of factors that can affect the treatment. This can include their level of physical activity, the temperature of their body, their diet, and their exercise routine. Digital therapeutics can track and record all of the data associated with the treatment and use it to alert the patient’s doctor of any necessary changes.

However, this isn’t the only reason that digital therapeutics improve clinical outcomes. They also increase patient engagement which is a significant component of clinical outcomes.

Digital Therapeutics Help Catch Symptoms Early On

By treating the patient’s condition early on, it will be less likely that the patient will encounter serious complications. Preventive care not only improves the patient’s quality of life but also the quality of life for the patient’s family and caregivers.

In some cases, the early detection of symptoms would allow the patient to seek treatment before the symptoms have time to progress. For example, a system enabling someone with diabetes to track blood glucose levels can help identify if there is a pattern of increased blood sugar.

This is why it is vital to have a monitoring system in place to ensure that if something is wrong, the abnormality can be detected and corrected as early as possible.

Digital Therapeutics Improves Patient Compliance

For providers treating a patient for a chronic illness, it is paramount to ensure patient compliance with treatment. For example, a patient with diabetes needs to take their insulin and keep track of their glucose levels on a daily basis. However, not all patients take the necessary care with their medication or monitor their blood glucose levels. This can lead the patient to run into issues pertaining to their diabetic condition and glycemic control.

On the other hand, if a patient is using a digital therapeutic device, then this can help the patient to better track their actions and allow for a consistent treatment regimen. This will most likely lead to better compliance with treatment and a better chance of treatment success.

Digital therapeutics stimulate patient engagement in the following ways:

  1. Patient-centric medical care
  2. Empowerment
  3. Shared decision making

Digital Therapeutics Can Improve an Individual’s Quality of Life

There are several ways that digital therapeutics can help to improve the quality of life of a patient. For example, a patient that has diabetes might need a device to help them manage their treatment.

This might include a blood glucose monitor that can keep track of their blood sugar levels and alert them when they are too high or too low. Additionally, they might need a device that can alert their doctor if they are experiencing an issue that they might not be aware of.

For example, if their blood sugar levels are beginning to drop below range, then the device can alert their doctor. This allows the doctor to check on the patient and make any necessary adjustments that can improve the patient’s medical care and decrease complications; thus, positively impacting the patient’s quality of life as the treatment journey progresses.

It is also important to note that patients that have chronic health conditions are often the ones that have the poorest quality of life. This is because the illness may make it difficult to do the things they enjoy or might require a great deal of time and energy to manage symptoms of the condition.

Using digital therapeutics to monitor health conditions and assist with treatment can significantly improve patient well-being.

Digital Therapeutics Promote Health

Research has shown that patients tend to give a better account of their overall health when asked over the phone or in an online survey as opposed to a face-to-face interview. By giving patients the tools to manage their health, the hope is that they will be able to engage in healthier lifestyle choices.

Digital therapeutics promote engagement and offer patients a variety of tools that they can use to manage their own health.

Treating patients with a digital therapeutic product can be effective in improving their quality of life. By encouraging healthier lifestyle choices and providing options for treatment, patients can experience the increased benefits of incorporating digital therapeutics into their healthcare treatment.

Information from the patient’s self-monitoring activities can also be used to help adjust the patient’s treatment plan. Because of this, digital therapeutics are often used in conjunction with digital medicine to treat a variety of chronic conditions.

Take Advantage of the Benefits of Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapeutics have the ability to positively impact how patients are treated and can help improve patients’ quality of life. Moreover, they can be utilized in a variety of disease conditions and help decrease patient healthcare costs overall.