Digital therapeutics – evidence-based clinical interventions delivered digitally, mostly via an app or a connected device – are one part of the digital health landscape. Why do experts expect them to make such a big impact on healthcare?
Interest in digital healthcare is growing. Rock Health reported that venture capitalists invested $9.4 billion in digital health companies this year. And these figures were only up to Q3! Digital health was also a recurring theme in Becker’s Hospital Review’s overview of how companies were investing their innovation budgets; among the products mentioned were:
- Lyra Health, which connects members with mental health care providers and uses digital exercises to help users develop coping skills
- SilverCloud Health, a full digital mental health care platform that addresses a wide range of conditions, from pain management to stress and anxiety management.
As a recent Star podcast on digital healthcare revealed, the future of healthcare is full of examples of using digital therapeutics to deliver on-demand, personalized support. What is making these products so important to digital health and healthcare in general?
4 Reasons Why Digital Therapeutic Products Are Essential to Healthcare’s Future
To answer this question, let’s pair it with another: What are some key challenges to the delivery of quality healthcare?
- Health workers are in short supply and costs are spiraling upwards.
- Patients may fail to understand or apply prescribed treatments. They may also discontinue a needed medication due to its side effects.
- Some people hesitate to seek professional care. This can be because of cost, a lack of opportunity, or a stigma associated with their condition.
- In the wake of the COVID pandemic, many people prefer remote, contactless care.
Now, let’s see how digital therapeutic products can help mitigate these problems.
- Digital therapeutics can reduce costs and the burden on healthcare workers. Such products allow for convenient, personalized health interventions. They’re interactive (unlike lengthy and often confusing printouts handed out by well-meaning care teams). And they’re always available. This means that digital therapeutics increase patient adherence and engagement.
- Digital therapeutics also enable non-drug therapies. For example, Kaia Health’s app teaches targeted exercises and pain management techniques to people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. The app can be used with or without drug therapies, but it certainly has the potential to train people to manage their health with fewer drugs – which means fewer side effects.
- Because digital therapeutics are often app-based, they remove many barriers to care. Apps are generally far less expensive than doctor visits and prescriptions; some can be downloaded from Google Play or iTunes for free. Many insurers either cover or are moving towards covering prescription digital therapy products. Digital therapeutic users can eliminate much of the stigma associated with getting treatment; they can access needed services privately, in their own homes, without an appointment.
- Finally, digital therapeutic products support contactless care. As evidence-based healthcare solutions, digital therapeutics are more than just wellness apps. They make it easier for patients to track symptoms and communicate with care teams. Many offer access to doctors, therapists, or personal health coaches. We can think of few better examples of using common, everyday technology to support our general health.
Digital Therapeutics and Healthcare: Watch This Space
In the next five to ten years, we expect digital therapeutics to transform much of how people experience healthcare. We’ve already seen them be successfully applied to a variety of common conditions, and it’s clear that they can solve many of healthcare’s long-standing problems. Thus, we have no hesitation in naming digital therapeutic products as one of the most important developments in healthcare technology.
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