Long-term clinical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, mental health problems and sleep disorders, usually impose a significant burden on the overall healthcare system, accounting for approximately USD 3.5 trillion of the annual healthcare cost. This has, in turn, led to an increase in demand for elaborate solutions / services. In order to cater to this demand, the healthcare industry needs to revise, restructure and improve its existing approach for health and disease management. In this context, it is worth mentioning that recent advances in telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI) based devices, blockchain, electronic health records (EHR) and digital therapeutics (popularly known as DTx) have enabled the establishment of a more proactive approach of dealing with chronic health problems through the adoption of several digital health solutions.

Considering the ongoing digitization efforts and transformation of the healthcare sector, digital therapeutics have garnered significant attention from industry stakeholders and investors alike. Driven by the rising interest in digital and remote health solutions, the future opportunities and growth associated with the digital therapeutics, the global digital therapeutics market is expected to be worth around USD 20 billion by 2035.

Digitization in Healthcare Sector

Several companies are working towards the development of healthcare solutions using digital technology to revolutionize medical diagnosis, treatment, and disease management. One of the primary goals of such players is to efficiently use emerging concepts, such as big data and machine learning, in order to generate key insights related to disease incidence, propagation and treatment to develop effective preventive and therapeutic solutions. Over the years, there have been several advances in diagnostics and disease management / monitoring industries as well, with digitized solutions like telemedicine and wearable health devices coming to the forefront. This demonstrates the significant potential for medical interventions facilitated by digital therapeutics alliances.

Next-Generation Healthcare Solutions

Digital health is a broad term that involves the utilization of communication and information technology in order to improve the management and tracking, as well as enhance the overall healthcare delivery system. Presently, the potential applications of digital health solutions are being explored across multiple domains, such as for the creation and maintenance of electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs), conduct of virtual clinical trials, development of smart medicine, genome sequencing, development of smart wearables for disease monitoring / management, and production of telemedicine, digital health systems, AI-enabled devices and digital therapeutics. In fact, the implementation of such solutions in the healthcare sector has been presumed to offer multiple benefits, such as reduction of treatment related costs, generation and maintenance of personalized health data, reduction in stress amongst healthcare professionals, increasing the efficacy of prescribed treatment regimens. It is also worth noting that the digital health initiative is primarily focused on developing and providing a range of easy-to-use and innovative tools to patients, scientists / researchers, healthcare professionals and other industry stakeholders for better health management. In fact, an upward surge in interest has been witnessed in this field and its potential applications.

An Overview of Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapeutics are clinically validated applications / software / online programs that have demonstrated the capability to facilitate positive outcomes when used in the prevention / treatment / management of diseases / clinical conditions. These therapeutics are designed to engage patients in personalized treatment or disease management / prevention programs, through mediating behavioral or psychological modifications, providing motivational support and inculcating healthy lifestyle changes.

In simple terms, a software that works either independently or in combination with personal medical assistance involving either a physician or an artificial intelligence-based support system, healthcare device(s) and other tools is referred to as a digital therapeutic solution. Such medical interventions have been shown to be capable of addressing the requirements of a variety of disorders, including lifestyle related diseases (diabetes and obesity), mental health problems (anxiety, stress and depression), neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, dementia and multiple sclerosis) and substance use disorders (smoking and opioid use disorder). Presently, several companies are focused on the development of prescription digital therapeutic solutions. Such solutions are generally prescribed by healthcare professionals or clinicians post the confirmation of the eligibility of patients.

The following figure provides a detailed process map on how a prescription digital therapeutic is utilized.

The following figure presents an example of a digital therapeutic program designed for enabling individuals, who are addicted to smoking, to quit, via cognitive behavioral therapy.

Concluding Remarks

Digital health is one of the most promising avenues that is supporting improvement in the healthcare sector, at a global scale. In the recent years, digital therapeutics have garnered significant interest from various stakeholders, especially for conditions that are inadequately addressed by pharmacological interventions, including chronic diseases and mental health issues. It is believed that the growing global population is likely to translate into increased incidence of chronic disorders. Chronic disorders, such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart diseases, are currently considered to be the leading causes of death and disability across the world. Specifically, the global prevalence of diabetes is estimated to reach more than 300 million adults by 2025. According to the WHO, more than 970 million people are presently suffering from some form of mental health disorder (such as anxiety and depression), and / or neurological disorders. This is likely to have a direct impact on the demand for treatment solutions. Moreover, given the present efforts in promoting the use of digital health solutions, coupled to the incorporation of more patient centric features and advanced technologies, adoption rates of such solutions are anticipated to improve significantly in the long term. However, low digital literacy rate among patients and staff members is another major concern. With persistent advancements in digital health, hospitals have started undertaking initiatives to provide sessions to their staff members in order to spread awareness and implement such digital solutions. Further, digital literacy rates are anticipated to improve among patients. For instance, in November 2018, Exosystems initiated a trial run for its solution, ExoRehab (a personalized neuromuscular rehab solution) at two hospitals, National University Bundang Hospital and Wonju Severance Christian Hospital. This approach not only allowed the firm to gather real world evidence to augment the credibility of its solutions, but also assists in the improvement of digital literacy among the staff of these hospitals. Given the rising popularity of such solutions and emergence of several novel technologies, digital therapeutic developers are integrating advanced techniques into their respective portfolios in order to enable higher adoption.

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