By empowering patients to take control of their own conditions, digital therapeutics is beginning to solve some of the biggest challenges to modern-day healthcare. With more widespread adoption there is also the opportunity for it to do even more.
Digital Therapeutics has the potential to boost outcomes, make better use of valuable clinician time, keep patients committed to their treatment and build patient-centric, data-driven healthcare systems.
Leveraging these capabilities effectively, however, is easier said than done. Technology developers and providers may find themselves at sea in the strictly regulated health sector, while healthcare providers may not fully be at home in the rapidly evolving tech space. Success relies on the two coming together to truly understand unmet patient needs – and focusing on care experience.
A world of potential benefits
Digital therapeutics are apps, platforms, and devices which complement traditional interventions and medicines. They are regulated, prescribed by doctors, and, crucially, integrated with electronic health records (EHR) to provide seamless in-person and virtual healthcare.
Patients living with long-term conditions spend just a few hours with their healthcare teams every year. The rest of the time, they manage their condition alone. They must take their medicines and cope with ongoing symptoms, as well as schedule and travel to numerous appointments, such as blood or temperature monitoring, all on top of the normal trials and tribulations of everyday life. It can be exhausting, overwhelming, and expensive.
Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) – providing a pathway to access
One specific and important aspect of digital therapeutics is “software as a Medical Device” (SaMD), the tech-driven solutions empowering patients to manage their own conditions and allowing clinicians to collect and monitor data.
SaMD removes many of these common barriers to care:
- Apps for remote blood pressure monitoring or temperature reading, for example, can reduce the financial and logistical hurdles of multiple clinic visits.
- Digital adherence solutions can remind people to take their medicines on time, and patient portals can provide the symptom management advice they need to administer self-care.
- Healthcare professionals (HCPs) can use remotely collected data to identify those who may need additional help in between routine follow-up and surveillance appointments.
For time-pressed clinicians, it’s a pathway to providing timely care with maximum efficiency. All this drives up individual outcomes, saving healthcare providers time and money, but the benefits do not stop there. In the next few years, digital therapeutics have the potential to revolutionise the way care is planned, provided, and delivered. Teams are increasingly utilising artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics to derive the invaluable insights needed to devise data-informed strategies that allocate precious resources based on need.
The recent move to hybrid and decentralised clinical trials (DCTs), driven by the advent of digital therapeutics, provides one of the most pertinent examples of success.
Digital Therapeutics is rooted in patient centricity, and solutions will only work if they solve real world problems. Every app, device, or platform must be carefully designed to meet the specific needs of the end user as well as taking into account clinicians’ usability
Of course, some elements will be essential across the board: integration with EHRs, clear and transparent systems of patient consent, and full compliance with data protection and privacy regulations are non-negotiable. But that is where the commonalities will generally end. What works in one region or therapy area, for example, will not necessarily work in another.
Instead, technology and healthcare providers must work together to identify patient and HCP pain points, and then develop bespoke solutions. This is likely to be new territory for both parties. Understanding the differences and commonalities between the two areas, the strategic touchpoints that dictate joint working, and the rapidly evolving regulations can seem a daunting prospect.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. Engaging experts in behavioural science, user/customer experience, software development, and marketing and sales, for example, can help to bridge the gap between tech and health, and navigate the fast-changing, often fragmented, regulatory landscape.
Grasp the opportunity
Whichever healthcare sub-sector we work in, we all want to improve the lives of people living with long-term conditions. By working together, we can accelerate Digital Therapeutics development, both in the run-up to submission and during post-market surveillance, making a real difference to people’s lives sooner, rather than later.