By Hans Lewis
Mumbai: Digital Health has emerged as a go-to-by thing during the last decade thanks to smart phones, mobile applications, wearable devices, cloud-based data platforms, social media platforms, and the like. The result is, that unlike the past, today’s patients enjoy greater power which in other words means they now have the freedom to participate in their own treatment decisions.
Digital Health, however, is being used as a general term by most people which is factually wrong. Digital Health is an umbrella entity under which comes various platforms and systems which leverage tech-solutions to improve and enhance healthcare delivery efficiency, and Digital Medicine and Digital Therapeutics (DTx) are its two key branches.
Digital Medicine can be classified as software or hardware products. Supported by evidence, it can measure or intervene in human health service delivery. Thus, remote patient monitoring devices, digital biomarkers and certain other tools fall under the category of Digital Medicines. DTx, however, covers the entire spectrum of evidence-based therapeutic interventions.
To put it succinctly, DTx interventions help in preventing, managing, treating medical disorders or diseases. Artificial Intelligence (AI) devices, digital sensors, wearable devices are some tools that add greater value to DTx. Thus, Digital Health, Digital Medicine and DTx exist separately in their own spaces since the products they offer have varied levels of claims and risks.
So, it is important for a consumer to grasp the difference between the three to understand the purpose and clinical value of the products they offer since that alone will vest him with the complete power to participate in his own treatment decisions considering the purpose for which Digital Health is increasingly coming to be seen and identified with.
That brings us to the question: How does DTx work? Unlike wellness applications, DTx applications are created to target specific disease conditions, in particular, poorly addressed conditions including chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular issues and pulmonary complications. DTx also have the ability to offer cost-effective solutions unlike traditional therapies. Most importantly DTx delivers clinical evidence and real-world outcomes.
There used to be a time when face-to-face communication was seen as an appropriate tool for triggering systematic behavioural intervention in issues relating to diet and exercise. However, DTx companies have changed this notion, leaning on smart, tech-savvy solutions which are altering the healthcare landscape for good.
The robot developed by a US-based DTx company that ensures medication adherence, nudging patients to take their medications on time is one example. Back home, we recently launched a web-based App, iNutrimon, developed in collaboration with Dr.Sanjith Saseedharan, Head ICU Department, SL Raheja Hospital that helps in monitoring patient diet.
iNutrimon that ensures contactless delivery of nutrition, developed and launched in the backdrop of Covid-19 restrictions can draw a comprehensive diet-prescription chart in less than four minutes per patient. The App is also helpful in fulfilling NABH protocols since it can maintain research data besides setting up nutrition therapy flow.
Healthcare providers see iNutrimon as a boon since optimum nutrition plays a key role in reducing mortality rate and accelerates the pace of patient recovery and hence it can be classified as one of the first typical DTx products to be offered in India, in the nutrition segment, where neither the concept of DTx exists nor a regulatory framework to assess DTx companies.
DTx along with VR technology has also emerged as a potential tool in addressing issues related to depression, anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, addiction and psychosis. There are, of course, barriers that come in the way of DTx like difficulty in differentiating it from other wellness applications.
The government of India and industry recognise that digital transformation and innovative technologies are accelerating healthcare in our country. At this point in time, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) has made a remarkable progress in developing a comprehensive digital health ecosystem. So far, more than 10 crore health records have been linked digitally to the Ayushman Bharat Health Account. This will empower citizens to create a comprehensive medical history across various healthcare providers thereby improving clinical decision-making.
There is no denying the fact that DTx is here to stay, compete and thrive. Sooner than later, it is bound to majorly disrupt how the pharmaceutical players operate globally. In other words, it means pharma companies just selling drugs may not be able to survive the headwinds that technology kicks in. To survive or thrive, they would need to offer a drug-digital-services combo!
By Hans Lewis, Founder & CEO, DocMode
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly)