The digitalization of wellness and health products has exploded in recent years. It provided new means that might allow tackling various health-related issues and finding approachable alternatives to offer people a better chance to attain well-being. 

But what future do the digital health platforms have, and what potential can they offer in the near future? 

Let’s Start With the Basics

For starters, let’s begin by defining what so-called digital health is.

Digital health is like an umbrella term that consists of several types of software platforms. It comprises devices, wearables and sensors, health data technology, personalized medicine, and digital therapeutics (DTx). 

The most promising field of digital health is its subsection DTx which comprises multiple technologies and services that can aid healthcare and wellness industries.

DTx is defined by its unique capability to commit clinically proven therapeutic interventions to prevent, manage, or treat medical disorders or diseases. Digital therapeutics can be used as additional help alongside traditional treatment of health conditions or as a replacement for conventional pharmaceuticals in general. 

The Future of DTx

In recent years, the DTx industry is growing fast and has the potential to replace some traditional therapeutics. For example, DTx-based mobile apps and devices can help patients manage their medical conditions by reminding them about dosage time, making medication adherence more comfortable. It can also guide users in reaching a healthy lifestyle, managing diseases like diabetes, or aiding those with chronic disorders like PTSD.

DTx progress and the ability to cover more health-related concerns have a lot to do with recent technological and internet advancements. Nowadays, there’s a chance of producing these devices and software platforms at optimal speed and quantity, making DTx more cost-effective than ever.

 

Industrial Obstacles

Despite the growing DTx industry, it has versatile ability in providing solutions to health problems and data confirming their clinical value. It faces some struggles in taking part in the healthcare mainstream. This industrial obstacle stems from two reasons. 

First of all, it’s pretty challenging for consumers and medical professionals to distinguish apps in terms of which one has or doesn’t have a proven therapeutic value. That’s why in some countries like the US and Germany, certain institutions have been charged with taking responsibility for checking DTx platforms for their clinical validity and marking these products so that each medical specialist could recognize them. 

So in these countries, developers who want to sell their software and receive accreditation are required to carry out certain trials, collect data, follow other procedures if needed.

Another obstacle that needs to be solved on the road to the wide adoption of digital therapeutics is the misalignment of incentives among providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies. 

DTx needs changes in healthcare provider workflows, which would mean that specialists would have to learn how to adopt digital tools within their medical practice. There is a high chance that the payer will expect some reimbursement before getting a DTx as well. Yet, the healthcare bureaucratic processes would need administrative adjustment in order to find enough cash to ensure compensation. 

In that regard, pharmaceutical and insurance companies will demand from DTx developers to prove their platform’s effectiveness by backing it up with comprehensive data. This process might take some precious time, and collecting needed information about products’ benefits won’t guarantee 100% success of being approved by healthcare-related institutions.

No matter these struggles, there’s a positive aspect behind these industrial obstacles as well. The shared interest in DTx has brought both pharmaceutical companies and software developers in one place. This fascination has created new opportunities to share know-how from both sides, potentially accelerating the development and adoption of DTx. 

The Bottom Line 

That being said, digital therapeutics (DTx) is soon to become a new category of medicine, capable of addressing all kinds of health conditions and helping people in need. Much work remains for developers and specialists working in the healthcare system in finding the best way to integrate DTx within the traditional medical ecosystem. Yet, by keeping up with the current pace and determination, DTx can become an indispensable part of medical practice. 

If you want to find out more about digital therapeutics, check out our Health Futurist Kasparas Aleknavičius’ presentation at the “Health for all 2021” conference here.