The term “digital therapeutics” is springing up like weeds in the yard, but what exactly does it mean?

Coined in 2012 by Dr. Cameron Sepah, the doctor wrote in his research paper that the definition of digital therapeutics was “evidence-based behavioral treatments” that were received by the patient online or in the digital space. 

Digital therapeutics, sometimes shortened as DTx, isn’t so much a “brand new technology” as it is a repurposing of existing technology, telehealth strategies, and digital accessibility and combining these methods with cutting-edge software to improve patient outcomes no matter their ailment. 

But where has digital therapeutics had the most impact? What are some examples of success? How can a healthcare facility use the latest medical computers, advanced patient portals, and medical databases to deploy these strategies to help patients no matter their location, mobility, and income level?

How Are Digital Therapeutics Implemented?

Digital therapeutics primarily benefit from connected monitoring devices of every stripe, depending on the condition in question. 

Wrist-mounted heart rate and pulse trackers can aid anyone suffering from heart disease, heart irregularity, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, or any other circulatory condition. Connected blood-testing machines can provide a whole host of detailed information, all transferred right to the doctor’s EMR computer and collected for observation. Dose calculators for medications like insulin ensure that diabetes sufferers get what they need and that the frequency and doses are sent to the doctor for long-term analysis. There are even plans being tossed around for futuristic devices like contact lenses that can detect patient glucose levels!

Of course, wearables and Internet-of-Things devices are only one of the tools in the DTx toolbox. 

These devices are paired with wellness apps and other software to create a fully actuated mobile health system for patients and doctors alike. These software pair with devices like patient mobile phone’s and doctor medical tablets, and collect all the data from the patient’s connected device to create notifications, use histories, live data feeds, recommendations, and even pipe messages from the doctor to the patient offering advice or praise to help them. 

What Conditions Benefit from Digital Therapeutics? 

Most persistent conditions, diseases, or ailments can be in some way improved by the promise of digital therapeutics. 

One of the primary uses of digital therapeutics is a kind of technological reinforcement of cognitive behavior therapy. Connected wearables and mobile wellness apps, backed by doctor monitoring and feedback, can improve almost any condition.

For executive functioning disorders like ADHD, a combination of traditional cognitive behavioral therapy and sensory-stimulating VR and video games can be used as a persistent treatment. The FDA has even approved a device meant to help children between the ages of 7 to 12 with ADHD. This digital therapy device is a patch the patient wears while sleeping. This patch sends pulses of low-level electricity into the brain and has been proven to help with executive functioning, emotional control, and behavioral adaption just as well as traditional ADHD drugs. 

Digital therapeutics have been used for other ailments, including concussions, problems with movement, talking, and thinking — all of which can be treated with connected devices and neurological music therapy.

Obesity can be fought with digital therapeutics: consider the combination of exercise trackers, diet tracking software, medication tracking, and the personal accountability of a doctor, nurse, or dietician on the other side of the program watching every interaction and gently reminding patients when to course-correct their behavior. 

Even physical therapy can be done at home with the right digital therapeutic techniques. Devices like connected step counters and other fitness-tracking tech can be piped into an app that walks the patient through their physical therapy routine for the day. The tracker helps the patient with their form, and also assures accountability — the physical therapist on the other side of the county, state, or country can then assess your progress over time and aid you with new exercises or techniques. 

Why Embrace Digital Therapeutics?

Sure, these mobile health and long-distance healthcare sound interesting, a combination of the newest toys and exciting new strategies. But if digital therapeutics are often just an extension of other treatments and cognitive-behavioral therapies, are they really necessary?

What’s the rush to implement digital therapeutics?

Well, healthcare access isn’t everything we’d like it to be. Rural hospitals are closing in record numbers, and the one-two punch of clinician shortages and health-insurance gaps means not everyone can take advantage of the latest medical tech.

So, instead of driving forty miles to the nearest healthcare center or a specialist, they can instead save those trips for truly serious health events. Long-term health management for chronic illnesses and recurring conditions can be successfully managed anywhere with even half-decent wifi. 

When you consider too the elderly, disabled patients, or simply patients with less-than-ideal transportation situations, the benefits of digital therapy become crystal clear. 

Bring Digital Therapeutic Technology to Your Organization

Interested in the promise of digital therapy, telehealth, and mobile health applications but not sure where to start? Or, are you looking to expand your existing digital therapy apparatus to a larger sphere of influence?

A successful digital therapy strategy needs a strong network, secure computers, easy-to-use intuitive devices and medical tablets for the doctor’s side of the equation, and a healthy dose of training and clear policy decisions for the staff. 

If you’re unsure where to start, or would love to talk to an expert on this kind of infrastructure, reach out to an expert at Cybernet today to have your questions answered.