Healthcare and Lifesciences
Role of Digital Therapeutics in Preventive Care
15 Mar 2023
Coming to aid of traditional Rx, Digital therapeutics (DTx) are a new form of preventive care that utilize technology to deliver evidence-based interventions through software or digital devices. These interventions are designed to be both clinically effective and user-friendly, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes, increasing patient engagement, and lowering healthcare costs. DTx is revolutionizing preventive care by providing safe, evidence-based interventions that can help prevent or treat a variety of medical conditions
How do they work?
Digital therapeutics have been proven effective in the management of both physical and mental health conditions, including chronic ailments.
These services are classified under the FDA's Software as a Medical Service (SaaMS) and are delivered through software applications that can be accessed via consumer devices like smartphones and tablets.
Digital therapeutics operate by providing patients with health-related guidance, behavioral suggestions, workout routines, and medication reminders. The functionality of digital therapeutics is made possible through adaptive algorithms, which progressively learn and enhance their performance with exposure to diverse data and scenarios.
Digital therapeutics (DTx) have been found to be effective in managing and treating a wide range of ailments, including both physical and mental health conditions. Here are some examples:
  • Diabetes: Digital therapeutics have been shown to be effective in managing diabetes, helping patients track their blood sugar levels, monitor their diet and exercise, and manage their medication.
  • Hypertension: Digital therapeutics can also help patients with high blood pressure monitor their blood pressure levels, track their lifestyle habits, and manage their medication.
  • Substance abuse disorders: DTx has been shown to be effective in treating substance abuse disorders by providing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET) through mobile applications.
  • Mental health conditions: Digital therapeutics can help manage conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by providing cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and other psychotherapy techniques through mobile apps.
  • Respiratory diseases: DTx has also been found to be effective in treating respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by providing education, monitoring, and guidance through mobile applications.
  • Sleep disorders: Digital therapeutics have been shown to be effective in treating sleep disorders like insomnia by providing cognitive-behavioral therapy and sleep hygiene education through mobile applications.
How are digital therapeutics beneficial?
The significance of digital therapeutics lies in their ability to provide patients with enhanced disease management, care, support, and information with unparalleled convenience and consistency.
DTx solutions offer medical practitioners a means of addressing gaps in treatment and delivery that may be unaddressed by conventional methods. This presents several advantages for patients, healthcare providers, and payers alike.
Some of the benefits of digital therapeutics include:
Benefits for patients
DTx solutions offer patients personalized care and treatment plans that are tailored to their specific needs. Since these solutions are accessible through mobile devices, they increase the accessibility of healthcare and eliminate the need for patients to travel to receive care.
Benefits for healthcare providers –
Digital therapeutics enable healthcare providers to expand their limited services and reach a wider range of patients with limited resources.
Healthcare providers who adopt and understand DTx solutions can meet patient needs without having to travel or attend to patients individually due to their scalability.
These digital solutions also improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery by overcoming geographical barriers to access and facilitating care during natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
Benefits for payers –
DTx solutions reduce the cost of patient care for reimbursement schemes, regardless of whether the payer is the government, insurance companies, or individuals.
Certain aspects of digital therapeutics, such as behavior monitoring and management, help patients reduce the frequency of medical visits, consultation fees, and medication expenses.
Challenges facing DTx
While DTx has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry, there are several challenges that must be addressed in order to fully realize its potential.
Regulatory Challenges:
One of the biggest challenges for DTx is navigating regulatory frameworks. Digital therapeutics are relatively new to the healthcare industry, and regulations around them are still being developed. Companies developing DTx need to comply with various regulations and requirements such as data privacy, data security, and clinical evidence.
Access to Technology:
DTx relies on the use of digital technology, which can be a barrier to access for some patients. Many patients may not have access to the necessary technology, such as smartphones or tablets, or may not be comfortable using digital technology.
Clinical Validation:
DTx needs to be clinically validated to prove their efficacy and safety. This involves conducting clinical trials to demonstrate that DTx can produce meaningful and lasting health outcomes. This process can be costly and time-consuming, and companies need to navigate the complexities of conducting clinical trials.
Adoption by Healthcare Providers:
Healthcare providers are key stakeholders in the adoption of DTx. However, they may be hesitant to adopt new technologies without strong evidence of their efficacy and safety. Companies developing DTx need to work with healthcare providers to ensure that they understand the benefits of DTx and how to use them effectively.
User Engagement
For DTx to be effective, patients need to engage with it regularly. This can be a challenge as many patients may not be motivated or find the interventions difficult to use. Companies developing DTx need to focus on developing interventions that are engaging and easy to use, and that can be integrated into patients' daily lives.
Investments in DTx in India
Digital therapeutics (DTx) is an emerging field in India, and the investments in this area are increasing as the potential of digital interventions in improving healthcare outcomes is being realized. Some key areas of investment in DTx in India include:
Telemedicine is one of the key areas of investment in DTx in India. It involves the use of digital technology to provide healthcare services remotely and can be particularly useful in rural and remote areas where access to healthcare services may be limited.
For instance, in 2018, the Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF) launched a telemedicine initiative in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The initiative aims to provide high-quality healthcare services to people living in remote and underserved areas of the state, using digital technology.
Under the initiative, telemedicine centers have been set up in various locations across the state, where patients can access medical consultations with doctors and specialists using video conferencing technology. Patients can also receive diagnostic tests and access electronic medical records, all from the same location.
Chronic disease management:
Digital interventions for chronic disease management is another area of investment in DTx in India. Digital tools such as mobile apps, wearable devices, and online platforms can help patients to manage their chronic conditions more effectively, and can also help healthcare providers to monitor their patients' health remotely.
For example, in 2021, the Indian digital therapeutics company Wellthy Therapeutics raised $4 million in a funding round led by Saama Capital. The company plans to use the funding to expand its digital interventions for chronic disease management in India.
Wellthy Therapeutics offers digital interventions for various chronic conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac rehabilitation. The company's interventions use a combination of mobile apps, online platforms, and wearable devices to help patients manage their condition more effectively and improve their health outcomes.
One of Wellthy Therapeutics' flagship products is the 'Wellthy Diabetes' app, which uses machine learning algorithms to provide personalized guidance and support to people with diabetes. The app has been clinically validated and has shown to improve glycemic control and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.
With the new funding, Wellthy Therapeutics plans to expand its reach to more patients in India and develop new digital interventions for chronic disease management. The company also plans to invest in research and development to improve the effectiveness of its existing interventions and develop new ones.
Mental health:
Mental health is an area of growing concern in India, and there has been significant investment in digital interventions for mental health. Digital tools such as mobile apps and online platforms can help to improve access to mental health services and provide support to those in need.
For instance, in 2020, the Bangalore-based mental health startup, Wysa, raised $5.5 million in a funding round led by Boston-based W Health Ventures. The company plans to use the funding to expand its digital interventions for mental health in India.
Wysa offers a mobile app-based chatbot that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide personalized support and guidance for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. The chatbot interacts with users in a conversational manner, using evidence-based techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.
The Wysa chatbot has been clinically validated and has shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The company has also partnered with several mental health professionals in India to provide more comprehensive care to its users.
Public-private partnerships:
The Indian government has been partnering with private companies to develop and deploy digital interventions in healthcare. These partnerships have helped to accelerate the development and adoption of DTx in India.
In 2020, the National Health Authority (NHA) of India partnered with Google to launch the 'National Health Stack' platform. The platform is designed to support the implementation of India's flagship healthcare program, Ayushman Bharat, which aims to provide health coverage to more than 500 million people in India.
The National Health Stack platform is a digital infrastructure that enables interoperability of health data and applications. The platform uses open standards and application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable seamless exchange of data between various healthcare providers and systems.
Google partnered with NHA to provide technical support and expertise in developing the National Health Stack platform. Google also provided cloud computing services and security infrastructure to ensure the privacy and security of health data.
The National Health Stack platform has the potential to transform the healthcare landscape in India by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery. The platform enables real-time monitoring and analysis of health data, which can help in identifying health trends, predicting disease outbreaks, and designing targeted interventions.
Best Practices for Adopting DTx
Define Clear Clinical Objectives:
The first step in adopting DTx is to define clear clinical objectives. It is important to identify the specific patient population and the clinical conditions for which the digital intervention is intended. This will help in selecting the appropriate digital intervention and measuring its clinical efficacy.
Develop Evidence-Based Interventions:
Digital interventions should be evidence-based and should be validated through rigorous clinical trials. The clinical trials should follow established protocols and should be conducted in a diverse patient population.
Address Regulatory and Legal Requirements:
Digital interventions are subject to regulatory and legal requirements, and it is important to address these requirements before adopting DTx. This includes obtaining regulatory approval, complying with data privacy laws, and addressing liability and reimbursement issues.
Ensure Interoperability and Data Integration:
Digital interventions should be designed to integrate with existing healthcare systems and workflows. This includes ensuring interoperability with electronic health records (EHRs) and other digital health tools, and integrating data from these systems into the digital intervention.
Ensure Usability and User Engagement:
Digital interventions should be designed with user engagement in mind. This includes ensuring ease of use, providing clear instructions and feedback, and incorporating gamification and other engagement strategies.
Evaluate and Monitor Outcomes:
Digital interventions should be continuously evaluated and monitored to ensure their effectiveness and clinical relevance. This includes monitoring patient engagement, tracking clinical outcomes, and adjusting the intervention as needed.
Final Thoughts
In conclusion, digital therapeutics (DTx) offer a promising new approach to preventive care. By leveraging digital technologies such as mobile apps, wearables, and online platforms, DTx can help individuals monitor and manage their health in real time, identify potential health risks, and take proactive steps to prevent disease. DTx can also help healthcare providers to better engage with their patients, provide personalized care, and reduce healthcare costs.
However, the adoption of DTx in preventive care requires careful planning, validation, and integration with existing healthcare systems. In particular, it is important to establish clear clinical objectives, develop evidence-based interventions, address regulatory and legal requirements, ensure interoperability and data integration, and evaluate and monitor outcomes.
As digital technologies continue to evolve and the need for preventive care becomes increasingly important, the role of DTx in preventive care is likely to expand. By embracing digital technologies and leveraging the power of data and analytics, healthcare providers can improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, and ultimately help to build a healthier world.

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