Digital therapeutics (DTx) offer a novel and vital approach to healthcare. Working “beyond the pill,” these evidence-based and digitally-powered healthcare solutions are already filling gaps left by traditional therapies.
Above all, what’s most promising is their ability to deliver personalized care through flexible care channels. Whether it’s mental health services, medication-adherence, physical therapy or any of its other applications, DTx has already shown improved the lives of millions of people.
But DTx is still in its infancy. To achieve wide scale adoption, DTx and healthcare professionals must focus on integrating digital therapeutics into the patient experience. In a recent podcast, Star’s Health & Wellness experts revealed that by focusing on these three key areas, DTx companies will create the foundation they need to not just firmly establish themselves in the market, but also redefine our relationship to our health.
Targeting hard-to-engage patients is Essential
It’s especially easy for companies to fall into the trap of focusing on payer and provider needs before patients. While this is important for validating the underlying business model, if a product doesn’t fit in a patient’s life, it doesn’t have a short or long term future.
Therefore, the approach must be designed for patients with limited experience using digital technology, particularly focusing on those with barriers to accessing care.
Focusing on user design while fostering integration bears fruit in additional ways. It often leads to discovering new product features or ways of interaction to boost engagement. Headspace did an excellent job of this in refining their mediation app. While first, they experimented with gamification techniques like rewards and badges, they found the greatest incentive was mental health.
So they refined the product accordingly, and the company now pulls in over $200 million in annual revenue and is even on its way to FDA-approval. Thus, by focusing on users, Headspace was able to achieve all of their goals. Other companies should follow suit to create products that are inherently more equitable and inclusive for everyone.
Raising awareness and improving education
While there is a growing awareness of telehealth-driven therapies thanks to the new healthcare reality caused by the coronavirus pandemic, comparatively few people know about the digital therapeutics products already available to them.
What’s great about DTx is that it covers such a broad array of different health conditions, but there has yet to be a single product that has truly gone viral.
Take Omada Health, for example. They are considered leaders in the DTx movement and have raised nearly $200 million in funding. They have 85,000 users, which is very impressive. But considering that nearly 34 million people in the US have diabetes, they only have 0.0025% of the market share.
Would most people in the US benefit from a solution like Omada? Absolutely. But it’s going to take education to get them there.
Like how telehealth is having its moment this year, digital therapeutics will also need to capitalize on current events to truly break out. DTx companies need to get active not just with marketing campaigns but also integrating themselves into provider workflows and demonstrating patients benefits to ensure their long term future.
Simplifying the Data Collection Process
The big promise of DTx is that it is personalized. But this personalization requires patient data—and a lot of it. For DTx to deliver, it will need to move beyond manual tracking.
Manual tracking of their health puts a significant burden on patients. It requires a lot of effort, for they might not perceive to be an adequate payoff. Moreover, tracking can often be required for a long time, months and years and it’s difficult to keep people consistently engaged for that long.
Fitness trackers have been successful because they require little effort on behalf of the user. They just wear it, and it will tell them how far they’ve walked, calories burned, and even how well they are sleeping.
However, it gets more complicated when you have to measure blood glucose levels or mood. Fortunately, DTx providers recognize this. There is a significant investment in passive tracking and sensors that will make all of this seamless.
But that’s looking about five years into the future. In the meantime, many DTx firms are investing in voice assistants to make data collection easier. Care companions like Pilo are doing an excellent job of this. They simplify complex care routines and improve engagement by encouraging, guiding and connecting with patients.
Likewise, products need dashboards, exports, and communication portals to help patients further record and providers collect and analyze data.
Integrating DTx into the patient experience
It might sound obvious, but the key to integrating digital therapeutics into the patient experience is by focusing on the patient. By designing with hard-to-engage patients in mind, focusing on education, and improving data collection, providers will be able to unlock DTx’s full potential to drive adherence, validate business models, and, most importantly, radically improve health outcomes.
This post has been sponsored by Star
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