10 Ways in Which Digital Therapeutics Helps Doctors in Their Day-to-day Practice
The last 20 years were all about digital health where we used technology for better communication, searching healthcare information, finding the right healthcare providers or building online healthcare brands.
With the advent of better health trackers, algorithms, and AI, the stage is set for the next era of healthcare technology- that is to alleviate human suffering and improve outcomes.
Digital Therapeutics fulfills that ambition. (or DTx) is the logical next step for digital health and is defined as products that ‘deliver evidence-based therapeutic interventions to patients that are driven by high-quality software programs to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease.’
Simply put, digital therapeutics are way ahead of apps or software which are focused on doctor appointments, telemedicine, diagnostics, EMR, or epharmacy. None of this software is focused on outcomes.
In the western world, Digital therapeutics are revolutionizing the care and outcomes becoming mainstream for diabetes, weight loss, neurological diseases, orthopedic conditions, addictions, psychological problems, and respiratory care.
According to NHS, McKinsey, and Deloitte, the DTx industry is supposed to grow at a CAGR between 20-40% in the next decade.
While for patients, DTx comes with a promise of better health outcomes, is it useful for doctors also? And the resounding answer is YES. As a practicing surgeon, I can vouch how it has helped me manage kids much better both pre-surgery and post-surgery.
The same has been the experience of a lot of my colleagues, where Fitterfly DTx programs have helped them and their patients in the field of diabetes, PCOS, Obesity, gestational diabetes, and pregnancy.
Let me summarize some of these benefits:
1. Better patient outcomes
By their very nature, true DTx programs are scientifically validated interventions with proven clinical outcomes. Thus, they generate trust about their efficacy and doctors recommend them with confidence.
For example, Diabefly DTx program for diabetes , lowers HbA1c by 1% or more within 3 months, nicely complementing the doctor’s therapy and advice. These results have been presented at international conferences by the Diabefly team.
This happens via a combination of better care, better adherence and better compliance which DTx program really provides
2. Saving time in clinics
Doctors often struggle with time per patient while managing their busy clinics. Secondly, patients often have a lot of questions about food, exercise, mental wellbeing, stress, and other day-to-day issues.
Answering these questions not just needs a lot of time but also a deep understanding of the lifestyle of each and every patient rather than just some general advice like eat healthy, exercise, or sleep well!
If these questions can be answered by a relevant expert, it can save a doctor’s time while providing patients with the right personalized expert advice.
3. Decreasing physician-related distress
In our recent psychological survey of 150 people with diabetes, 30% of people had physician-related distress and the biggest reason was paucity of time given by doctors.
Here, DTx can fill in the gap and help patients decrease that distress by enhancing communication and flow of information.
4. 360-degree care
Whether it is tracking their health or giving coaching on nutrition, mental wellbeing or physical fitness, DTx can bring all qualified experts under one roof in one program for the benefit of the patient.
In Diabefly, every single patient gets assessments and coaching from a nutritionist, a psychologist and a physiotherapist for diabetes. A combination of this therapy given in a personalized format, is what achieves best in class outcomes for Diabefly.
5. Giving relevant advice to patients
By using data from various trackers, health data from tests, and finally when this data interacts with advanced software and analytics tools – the coaches understand the need gaps of the patients and give relevant specific advice to the patient which helps them on a day-to-day basis.
Secondly, when it comes to a detailed advice on diet, exercise and stress, often we doctors are not the most qualified people to provide that advice. The DTx program bridges that gap by covering all these gaps in a very meaningful, personalized and empathetic way.
6. Finding hidden problems which hinder outcomes
Habit and lifestyle change is the Achilles heel in the management of Diabetes, Obesity, and PCOS. While on the DTx program, patients often provide data that reveals the root problems.
For example, there are umpteen examples where we found people with diabetes to be consuming really high glycemic index foods or wrong combinations of foods.
Similarly, their fitness regime lacked combination and variety, both of which are essential in fighting insulin resistance. In fact one of the patients with diabetes was having sugarcane juice and cookies every day, till we showed him his personalised glycemic response (Fitterfly algorithm) to these foods, and then he made the switch to healthier foods.
7. Improving compliance and adherence
Adherence to therapy and compliance are big challenges in India for doctors. DTx programs help patients stay on track with their medications, doctor visits, and tests.
Coaches stay in weekly touch solving any queries, motivating and encouraging patients for compliance. Also, they ensure regular visits with doctors.
8. Saving time and money
People with NCDs often need a multi-prong approach beyond doctor’s therapy to impact outcomes, this may include coaching from a nutritionist, psychologist, and exercise therapist.
The multitherapy in Digital therapeutics programs is available for the patients at the click of a button on smartphones. Hence, the wastage of time and money associated with travel can be saved.
9. Research and Publications
DTx programs generate rich data and meaningful correlations which are the cutting edge of real-world evidence. The software backend allows easy data collection and quick analysis.
At Fitterfly, we have set up a scientific publications department and the doctors who work with us for their patients are offered co-authorship in the journal articles or presentations at conferences.
10. Doctor update reports to stay updated
DTx programs produce clinically relevant update reports for the doctors which can help them make therapy decisions and change medications. These reports generated by the system are a deep dive into a patient’s lifestyle, progress and can go a long way in improving outcomes.
How can a doctor start taking benefit of Digital Therapeutics
Digital therapeutics is a new field in India and there are currently very few companies in India that offer programs with proven scientific outcomes.
As a doctor when you are referring patients for a prescription DTx program you should be fully convinced that the company has proven outcomes, they have the right specialists, and are assuring data protection.
Even then, initially, it may be wise to just do a pilot with the referral of 5-10 patients to see the approach, empathy, and outcomes. Also, take feedback from the patients about what they liked and what they didn’t.
Check the update reports that the company sends you. Attend a few calls with their coaches and understand what guidelines and processes they follow.
Once trust is gained, think about the larger picture, how can you participate more and make DTx available for suitable patients who would benefit, are smartphone savvy, and can afford it.
Doctors are at the forefront of the war against diseases and digital therapeutics can be something that can really help them in multiple ways. Being a practicing doctor, I am very excited by the possibilities which DTx brings to my practice.