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Digital therapy is an example of the modern digital healthcare industry: development drivers, advantages and prospects for the future. Part 1

Thursday, July 15, 2021

In the modern world, no one disputes the advantages of digital therapy over traditional therapy — this includes direct access to patients, reducing the cost of treatment, increasing adherence to a healthy lifestyle and significant addition to classical methods of treatment. In this article, we will try to show the value and necessity of using digital therapy, its application in the treatment of various diseases, and also note problem areas with potential directions for developers.

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What is digital therapy, and why is it so necessary

The term digital therapeutics was first used in 2013 by Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, to describe his software that helps patients predisposed to diabetes avoid diseases by exercising more and losing weight. Digital Therapy is defined as “a medical treatment option that uses digital health technologies to treat a specific disease or psychological condition”. It is significant to note that digital therapy cannot replace classical methods of treating patients, but is a supplement form.

Digital therapy is often compared with health trackers (wellness tracking applications), but there are significant differences between them.

The cost of medical care and health care costs are a serious problem for Governments around the world. Digital healthcare technologies contribute to reducing costs and improving treatment outcomes, especially for chronic diseases. From the financial point of view, the share of costs for the treatment of chronic diseases is huge in most of the developing world. Evidence of this is the fact that the United States spends 86% of all medical care on chronic diseases every year and about half of the American population suffers from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, smoking and chronic respiratory disorders.

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What digital therapy solutions provide (screening platforms and patient routing)

Timely detection of symptoms of diseases, early screening are the basis for proper treatment and, as a result, a favourable outcome for the patient. In this case, an incomplete or incorrectly made diagnosis leads to an incorrect treatment method. Taken together, these problems put a huge burden on health systems.

As the Cancer Research report shows, progress in early diagnosis, treatment strategies and life expectancy has led to a gradual increase in the number of survivors of long-term cancer.

Currently, various digital therapy initiatives are being implemented to treat a number of diseases.

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Digital oncotherapy

The research has shown that cancer patients randomly selected for psychotherapeutic treatment based on digital therapy and on the basis of direct contact of the doctor “face to face”, improved mental health compared to cancer patients who received treatment in the usual mode.

It was proven to improve the emotional well-being of patients who received chemotherapy, who used the Headspace app for an 8-week period in a study of its effectiveness.

The effect of digital therapy on reducing pain symptoms in cancer patients with various types of cancer was also demonstrated in a study of the effectiveness of the PainGuard app, which provides continuous information about treatment and feedback: a randomly selected group of patients after 4 weeks of treatment showed higher results in improving emotional, psychological and social spheres, as well as in relation to sleep, nausea/vomiting, fatigue and the scale of pain symptoms compared to the control group that received traditional pharmacological treatment.

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Diabetes prevention programs

The first application approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration — the US Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of diabetes was WellDoc. This app has clinical effectiveness and includes careful monitoring of the condition of patients in terms of diet, weight, physical activity and connects them with the attending physician, which allows you to adjust treatment during exacerbations and reduce the frequency of symptoms.

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Treatment of drug addiction

Pearl Therapeutics app is used by patients in combination with standard treatment methods and improves clinical results by increasing the patient’s adherence to treatment, which has been proven by the FDA.

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Asthma

Propeller Health, in partnership with the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, has launched the Asthma project to monitor the condition of patients with asthma. The device consists of a sensor attached to an inhaler, which allows you to track the use of the drug, and an app to provide feedback. The main goal of the project is to reduce the number of unjustified use of medicines.

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Insomnia

Big Health has launched an online therapeutic program, Sleepio, which includes visual exercises to improve sleep. The main goal of the project is to replace the use of sleeping pills, being more effective and economical.

Advantages:

  • No side effects and high efficacy, clinically proven.

  • Direct access of the doctor to patients, which expands the possibilities of their interaction.

  • Minimization of monetary and time expenses of patients associated with visiting hospitals and polyclinics.

  • Minimizing the time spent by the doctor on administrative tasks and routine communication, and thereby increasing the time spent directly on the treatment of patients.

  • Ensuring continuous monitoring of the patient’s vital functions.

  • Stimulating patients’ adherence to a healthy lifestyle and prescribed treatment.

Disadvantages:

  • Insufficient confidentiality and security of patient data.

  • Some applications developed without the scientific participation of medical specialists may issue false statements.

  • A serious mistake when using digital therapy can affect thousands of patients at the same time, without ready-made mechanisms for detecting and correcting it.

  • Some applications cannot guarantee the accuracy of the diagnosis.

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Digital therapy solutions make it possible to meet the needs for the prevention and treatment of adverse events in patients with various diseases, including receiving feedback and direct contact between patients and their attending physicians; raising awareness and training of patients and caregivers; integrating clinical methods for assessing the patient’s condition used in the course of routine clinical practice; assistance and tips for patients, as well as monitoring the patient’s condition.

The previously mentioned clinical experience proves its effectiveness in the use of digital therapy. Definitely, further research and development are needed to demonstrate the huge potential of digital therapy in the near future.

15 Jul 2021

 

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