Digital health is big business. According to Global Market Insights, the market for digital therapeutics alone was estimated at 106 billion USD and will experience a compound annual growth rate of 28% through 2026. However, for the millions of people – healthcare providers, payers, and patients alike – who build, support, or use digital health technologies, digital therapeutics are more than business.
They’re a new era in digital healthcare.
In this post, we’ll look at the role digital therapeutics currently play in delivering quality healthcare. First, though, let’s look at what factors are driving the rising interest in digital healthcare.
Why Interest in Digital Health is Soaring
At this point in time – November 2020 – the most obvious reason for the rise of digital health is the COVID-19 pandemic. The other obvious reason for the burgeoning interest in digital health is that consumers have more access to the foundational technologies that drive digital therapeutics (e.g. smartphones, wearables, etc.) But for many people these days, such technology is a given. So, what’s really behind the rise of digital health?
- Digital health companies are maturing, becoming more attractive partners and acquisitions to larger corporations.
- Regulatory bodies and insurers are becoming more aware of digital health and its benefits, making them more supportive and inclusive of tech-assisted healthcare.
- Digital natives (people who grew up using the Internet, computers, and mobile devices) now make up a sizeable percentage of the population – and a significant number of healthcare providers.
The stage is set for digital therapeutics, a branch of digital health that, according to the Digital Therapeutic Alliance, delivers “evidence-based therapeutic interventions to patients, [interventions] that are driven by high-quality software programs to prevent, manage, or treat a broad spectrum of physical, mental, and behavioral conditions.”
To understand digital therapeutics’ potential impact on healthcare, let’s examine two examples of digital therapeutics already in the market.
Examples of Digital Therapeutics at Work
Digital therapeutics can help patients manage many common conditions – including diabetes, depression, dementia, COPD, asthma, obesity, hypertension, and anxiety. Consider just two examples of what’s currently available:
Digital therapeutics pioneer Omada’s goal is to “empower people to achieve their health goals through sustainable lifestyle change”. They are the first digital health company to partner with the American Medical Association. To make it easier for employers and health plans to support a diverse population, they offer tech-based assistance for diabetes prevention and management, hypertension, muscle and joint pain, and behavioral health issues. Using a multi-faceted approach that includes professional health coaches, connected health monitoring devices, and an online community, they’ve successfully blended human connection with digital tools – a key aspect of the future of healthcare.
Freespira has a much tighter focus: panic disorders. Their treatment uses 1) a sensor to measure respiratory rates and carbon dioxide levels, and 2) rising and falling audio tones to help panic disorder sufferers train their breathing patterns. Critically, Freespira teaches self-management; when panic sufferers find themselves feeling anxious, they can adjust their breathing to avoid a full-blown panic attack. The company estimates that approximately 90% of users show marked improvement in their symptoms.
By encouraging people to be active participants in their healthcare, digital therapeutic products are already teaching people to proactively manage their health. What more could these products do?
Digital Therapeutics Products’ Impact on Healthcare
Digital therapeutics can have a resoundingly positive impact on the effectiveness of healthcare. They:
- Make care more patient-centric, improving adherence and driving positive health outcomes.
- Provide greater access to care and therapy, regardless of time and place.
- Reduce some of the burden on overworked health professionals.
- Encourage more interactions between patients and pharma companies, leading to more data about how pharmaceutical products are actually used. This can trigger more innovations in the industry.
It’s incumbent upon all of us – patients, providers, payers, and employers – to learn more about digital therapeutics and the future of healthcare. Not only is this a growing field, it has the potential to reshape a sizable part of the healthcare system.