Will the future of medicine be built by digital therapies?

App and software that can replace current drugs. At the start the third phase of medicine with digital therapies

Is it really possible to replace a drug with an app? The answer is yes, if you think about the so-called “Digital therapies” that will characterize the “Third phase of medicine” , according to US venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz.

But what are digital therapies really?

I’m technically validated technological solutions designed to integrate or potentially replace traditional therapies, ensuring greater patient involvement and at the same time improving the overall quality of health care in the long run.

A correct definition of what a digital therapy is is among the mission of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance , a company formed by the main realities of the sector such as Pear , Akili , Propeller Health , WellDoc , Omada Health is Voluntis to promote and promote the understanding, adoption and integration of digital therapeutic solutions.

Video games designed for the treatment of children with ADHD such as Akili , online programs such as Omada Health to help you lose weight by decreasing cardiac risk, mobile platforms and sensors to support the management of respiratory diseases such as those proposed by Propeller Health. These are just some of the most popular digital therapies on the US market and that in most cases are aimed at those patients suffering from chronic diseases or neurological disorders, often not addressed by the traditional health system. Furthermore, these new therapies offer cheaper treatments and consequently reduce the work for doctors.

If these are the benefits because digital therapies have not yet fully entered the health care offer? Why are not prescribed by doctors and why pharmaceutical companies do not invest to develop new ones?

Second McKinsey & Company the obstacles there are two real ascents of digital therapies: theirs differentiation in the digital health market and the inefficient distribution of incentives.

Digital therapies vs digital health apps

The number of health app has increased strongly, just think that in 2017 they were released later 318,000 health app is 340 wearable devices , but not everyone has a real therapeutic value. The digital therapies to be considered as such they should be based on clinical evidence and meet safety, efficacy and value standards. The same happens for example between drugs and supplements. The role of regulators is therefore crucial, as thanks to their assessment consumers will be able to understand what a digital therapy really is. It is therefore not surprising that the FDA is thinking about creating a unit dedicated to digital healthcare .

An inefficient distribution of incentives

In order for there to be a diffusion of digital therapies equal to that of current drugs, they are necessary changes in the whole health chain . First of all, a change in the physicians’ approach to data concerning the health status of the patients is necessary. For example, many digital therapy apps and software are based on monitoring patient symptoms. Data, these, which are often considered more a nuisance than an aid. It is therefore necessary that physicians learn to evaluate this data as useful information and to use it using analytical software.

From the patient’s point of view, it is important that the adoption of these new therapies be reimbursable, but this depends essentially on the type of result that can be achieved by adopting the new therapies. In general the sector of insurtech it aims to reimburse those therapies that ensure better management of health conditions and / or help to better control their condition. Although in the case of a chronically ill patient, side effects can occur many years after the onset of the disease and therefore not covered by the insurance system.

Finally, to witness a real rise in digital therapies, investments by pharma companies are required, which have a different approach to innovation than companies that develop this new type of therapy. In fact, it is mostly the startups that use latest generation technologies. But something moves in the pharma sector. Eg, Roche bought mySugr , the app dedicated to diabetic patients. In the near future there will be many pharmaceutical companies that could have their own unit dedicated to digital therapies, but in the short term the easiest way is to partnership between pharma and startup .

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