The healthcare industry has faced immense challenges this year. More than anything, it’s revealed some of the severe cracks in the foundation that have long since needed to be repaired. Statistics have shown that health outcomes have declined across the board.
After decades of steady improvement, premature deaths, disease burden, reported poor health, and other problems are on the rise. And this was before the pandemic sent shockwaves through the healthcare system!
As challenging as these past months have been, there is a silver lining. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption and acceptance of new healthcare innovations offering contactless and personalized care in the form of digital therapeutics.
Digital therapeutics (DTx) are a subset of digital health. They are closely associated with telehealth. The difference is subtle. Telehealth is how therapy is delivered. DTx are the actual therapeutics interventions and offer evidence-based, patient-centric solutions to a wide variety of health challenges.
Here are three key ways digital therapeutics are reshaping the healthcare industry.
Think about traditional biopharmaceutics. The pathway to creating and delivering drug therapy has been rigorously refined over the years. It relies on clinical trials and studies.
By the time a medication hits shelves, it has been given a stamp of approval that basically says that it’s safe and effective enough in enough people for healthcare professionals to prescribe it. Of course, there are trade-offs, including harmful side effects, and there’s no guarantee any single treatment will be effective for all patients since every person reacts differently to biopharmaceutics.
However, personalization is built directly into every digital therapeutic solution, and they come without side effects. Akili is one such example. This FDA-approved DTx created a prescription treatment video game for children with ADHD. It delivers evidence-based therapy in place of medication without the serious side effects.
The therapy also changes individually for each child as they progress to reflect their needs better. The result is a “beyond the pill” and effective treatment option that’s not only safer but can fill voids that traditional therapies haven’t been able to. DTx won’t immediately solve every challenge. But creating personalized, safe and effective alternatives creates the flexibility that both providers and patients need.
2. On-demand care
During the pandemic, telehealth has provided a glimpse into what on-demand care looks like. Rather than heading out to a doctor’s office and waiting around to be seen finally, telehealth has made remote video consultation a reality for millions of patients worldwide.
But this is just the beginning of what digital health can do. Patients can receive therapy from anywhere. The advantages for those with chronic conditions and mobility issues cannot be overstated. They can receive effective treatment from anywhere.
That’s why DTx applications for MSK conditions have already received such widespread acclaim. Hinge Health not only gives patients access to 1-on-1 virtual coaching sessions but also sensor technology that provides real-time guidance feedback as they work through physical therapy. This has led to a 69% average pain reduction, a 58% reduction in depression and anxiety, and $5,000 in annual savings.
3. Shifting the focus to preventative care
Prevention is the best medicine may be an old cliche, but it’s startingly how seldom this advice can be heeded. The high costs of the healthcare system make preventative care simply unaffordable for most people.
Missed prevention opportunities lead to over 100,000 preventable deaths each year. They also contribute to serious quality of life issues, lowered economic productivity, and increased healthcare costs due to more complex treatment methods required for advanced cases.
Studies have shown that focusing on even just seven preventative services—childhood immunization, obesity screening, tobacco screening, adult vision screening, obesity screening, alcohol screening, and pneumococcal immunization) could reduce healthcare spending by $54 billion annually.
This is an area where DTx really shines. DTx applications in all of these areas have already shown immense promise. For example, the diabetes management solution Bluestar has saved payers; on average, $254-271 per patient per month.
The quality of life gains are similarly impressive for patients. Patients achieve quantifiable health gains, including a 1.7 to 2 points average decrease in HbA1c in the first 3 to 6 months of usage and higher engagement levels with their overall diabetes condition management.
Now translates these outcomes to a large variety of different conditions including addiction, mental health conditions, mobility issues and more and you can see just how much DTx is reinventing our relationship to healthcare.
DTX: driving a healthier future
While digital therapeutics are gaining steam, the concept isn’t new. Digital health technologies have been around for decades. But a few things have happened to accelerate the process of adoption. Now that everybody has a smartphone in their pocket, it’s possible to conveniently engage in digital health.
The pandemic has already lowered regulatory hurdles and enhanced patient willingness to try out these products. As these technologies continue to scale and grow even more effective, they will lead to complete healthcare industry transformation. Personalized, on-demand and a shift to preventative care are just three of the many ways digital therapeutics are evolving healthcare.
Whether you’re a patient, provider, or payer, change is coming quickly, and everybody will benefit from it.