In 2021, the Pew Research Center estimated that 93% of US adults use the internet. Americans over 65 have increased their internet usage from 46% to 75% in the last decade. Globally, world internet usage is estimated at 63%, with highest engagement in Northern Europe, Western Europe, and North America—contrasting with lower implementation in Southern Asia, Western, Eastern, and Middle Africa (46%, 43%, 26%, and 25%, respectively). Smartphone usage has reached 85% in the US, and 78% globally. This worldwide acquisition of smartphones paves the way for better access to healthcare via credentialed apps.
Enhanced connectivity can play an important role in improving individual and public health—and making medical care more patient-centric. The European Public Health Association (EUPHA) predicts DTx can facilitate quality, accessibility, and equity in public health. They delineate benefits including:
- personalization and precision,
- data analytics,
- patient interaction and empowerment.
Moving from a Disease-Focus to Patient-Centric Care
Patient-centric care (PCC) has been defined as care that highly values patient preference, focuses on patient communication, and engages the patient in shared decision-making. Additionally, in PCC models, health promotion and prevention are valued and includes patients’ functional, spiritual, and occupational goals.
McKinsey & Company report that US consumers already prioritize patient-centric care and want to proactively manage their health, spending between 300 billion and 400 billion dollars of their discretionary income on health expenses. Additionally, Americans have increased spending by 40% on complementary wellness care, such as apps to support sleep, fitness, and appearance.
Beyond enhanced access, DTx places patients at the helm of their own healthcare. As an example, the Sidekick Health platform provides patients with the opportunity for daily monitoring of disease-specific progress and therapy response through adaptive care paths. With disease-specific education and programs designed to adapt to their needs, patients can enhance their health at home and between clinic visits.
So, rather than marginalizing patients as passive recipients of therapy, DTx empowers patients to be central to their disease management; and offers opportunities for new-world engagement with their doctors, clinician-researchers, and pharmaceutical companies.
Healthcare Stakeholders Embrace Patient-Centric DTx
Recognition of the benefits to public and individual health from digital therapeutics has informed the National Health Services of England (NHSE) pilot study for a digital diabetes prevention program (DDPP) as an alternative to face-to-face educational programs. The NHSE’s successful results mirror a US randomized controlled trial demonstrating significant diabetes prevention in participants. And a United States Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ DDPP trial corroborated these benefits in a low-income population.
Beyond behavioral interventions, medtech companies—focused on developing medical device, diagnostics, and imaging technologies—are adopting digital health therapeutics ranging broadly from digital tumor board programs, like NAVIFY®, to integrating robotics and digital technologies to improve orthopedic joint reconstruction. 61% of surveyed medtech executives recognize adoption of digital technologies as critical to their company’s growth, prioritizing:
- data analytics (61%),
- artificial intelligence and machine learning (33%),
- cloud-based technology (33%).
Building Relationships Between Patients and Pharma
In the past, pharmaceutical companies met patients’ health challenges through the lens of disease-driven research. The scientific rigor required by the drug-development process inserted divides in pharma’s ability to communicate directly with patients. This hierarchy placed the patient—and their interaction with and response to pharma’s therapies—at the end-of-the-communication-line.
DTx provides a unique window into the patient’s world: symptoms, therapy, disease response, and quality of life (QoL). Pharmaceutical companies can leverage this patient-centric data garnered from DTx to provide better products and services.
In “Exploring digital therapeutics: The next paradigm of modern health-care industry” featured in Perspectives in Clinical Research, authors Drs. Raj Khirasaria, Vikramjit Singh, and Angelika Batta identify opportunities DTx offers the pharmaceutical industry for patient engagement. They delineate clinical benefits from digital therapeutics can be mined in three ways:
- Digital services – modifying patient behavior to drive a clinical outcome.
- Adjunctive digital therapeutics – indirectly improving clinical outcomes by complementing traditional therapeutics.
- Digital drug replacement – which requires clinical trials and rigorous approval processes.