The traditional “one size, fits all” approaches for acute and chronic illnesses have served us well for last few decades and we have seen health outcomes improve to a certain level. Going forward, the incremental improvement in human health is predicted to happen with use of a personalized approach to every single human being using technology. This change is being brought about by Digital Therapeutics that is now revolutionizing the healthcare space. Patients can access evidence-based therapeutic interventions driven by high-quality software programs to prevent, manage or treat a broad spectrum of physical, mental, emotional and behavioural conditions.
“Prescriptive medicine” has been the status quo thus far. But this approach is often fraught with errors as each person’s genetic make-up is different which impacts their health in a significant way. To add to this, there are differences in habits, customs or food preferences. Undoubtedly, health, disease and drug response also vary for every person.
This is where digital platforms are making personalized medicine a reality by bringing technology and human services together for daily analysis and monitoring of data. The outcome is better identification of health issues and initiating corrective actions in a timely manner. A typical Digital therapeutic platform will have a patient facing app, a program design portal, coaching backend and a human team. The app allows the patient access to personalised data & tracking, coaches see the interactions and progress on the back end and all these functionalities can be controlled via a program design portal.
Take diabetes management as an example – an area which really requires a holistic approach but there are limited options available. Technology, however, comes to the rescue, as doctors and care providers can now understand the variations in blood sugar responses to various foods, fitness profiles, food habits and work-out attitudes and develop a personalized treatment plan. This ensures that equal attention is paid to all aspects including nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management, monitoring and compliance, awareness and motivation and support. Daily data monitoring shows patients the urgency and also where to make the change.
Another big challenge often seen is patient adherence to treatment.. Studies show that treatment adherence is a major problem in the management of chronic diseases. People stop taking medicines once they feel that the symptoms have gone away. According to the WHO, this can have a more direct impact on patient outcomes than the specific treatment itself. However, the situation can now be reversed using two approaches – educating the patient and smart diagnostics. Digital platforms can give very personalised education to every patient depending on their age, clinical condition, medications, co-morbidities, food habits and fitness. On the other hand, smart diagnostics can ensure daily monitoring and analysis of data which helps the patient adhere to the treatment plan, thereby improving the outcomes significantly.
Most chronic diseases such as diabetes, PCOS, obesity, hypertension are a result of sedentary lifestyle and therefore a personalized plan can work wonders in their management and cure. The associated risk factors like lack of physical activity, food abuse, consuming alcohol or smoking affect each individual differently. Daily monitoring coupled with the services of a multi-disciplinary heath care team at one’s finger tips can make a crucial difference! Some areas where digital therapeutics is already finding application is diabetes reversal, weight loss, PCOS management, improving quality of dialysis for kidney disease patients and home monitoring of dialysis, bettering cardiac health, improving mental health outcomes and stress management, stepping up respiratory care, monitoring stroke treatment and rehabilitation, etc.
Another area that opens up with technology is risk screening for large groups of populations and clinical decision support to doctors at primary health care centres in rural India. This has the potential to revolutionize the field of chronic disease management. Risk screening can be done at the community level and data sent to the doctor at the primary health care centre who can then prescribe medicines and give advice. Treatment adherence can be monitored at the community level thus setting up a healthy cycle of systematic medical appraisal, referral and treatment.
Digital therapeutics programmes can lead to better health outcomes at organizational levels as well. Investing in the metabolic, physical and mental health of their employees can bring rich dividends to companies in the form of enhanced productivity and performance. Indeed, never before have technology and biology come together to result in health outcomes that matter as they are doing today!
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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