The Digital Therapeutics Landscape

Jan 10, 2018

By: Patricia N. Mechael, PhD, MHS, Executive Vice President, Personal Connected Health Alliance

Digital therapeutics (DTx) is emerging as an important sub-category within digital health.  A promising yet poorly defined field, digital therapeutics represents an area of great opportunity, utilizing digital tools as an alternative or enhancement to drug therapies to treat, prevent and/or reverse primarily chronic diseases. To help advance understanding and effective use of digital therapeutics, we are excited to collaborate with the Consumer Technology Association’s Health and Fitness Technology Division and Ipsos Healthcare to assess the digital therapeutics landscape. I have the privilege of presenting our findings this week, together with Lesley Rohrbaugh, CTA’s Senior Manager for Market Research, during Disruptive Innovations in Healthcare at CES18

The results of our research -- which includes perspectives from industry experts and physicians, as well as patients -- will help define the field, set priorities, harness opportunities, and address the obstacles that lie ahead.

An essential first step in advancing this field is to create a clear concise definition. Based on feedback from a number of industry experts, following is the working definition used to guide the landscape: Digital therapeutics harness the power of technology to impact health by enhancing traditional medical practices, encouraging behavior change, and in some instances serving as a direct stand-alone therapy for a health condition. Digital therapeutics are validated by clinical evidence to demonstrate an effect on health outcomes for specific treatment pathways as well as primary and secondary disease prevention.

It's clear that digital therapeutics hold great promise to enhance patient care, create treatment efficiencies, and improve clinical outcomes. Fortunately, many healthcare providers are demonstrating a willingness to use digital therapeutics in conjunction with an existing therapeutic option -- provided there is evidence to support this. And, most patients are viewed as potential users of some type of digital therapy intervention, following education on its benefits, as well as ease of use.

Over the past five years, we have seen digital therapeutics move beyond e-records and mobile health with greater confidence, better patient engagement, and more appreciation for the clinical benefits. However, the majority of physicians surveyed have never used digital therapeutics and a significant number have never even heard of the term. In order to establish digital therapeutics as a treatment option, we must tackle some tough issues, including reimbursement, robust clinical evidence, favorable regulatory climate, and awareness and knowledge of digital therapeutics. 

When it comes to provider acceptance, the majority of those we polled reported they would use a digital therapeutics option for a segment of their patients, mostly in combination with an existing drug therapy. The most commonly cited area of opportunity for digital therapeutics is in the tracking and monitoring of medication adherence, with chronic diseases presenting the greatest opportunities for adoption. Life threatening chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, are often lifestyle-driven and currently account for a huge portion of healthcare spending, affect a significant and growing population, and require continuous monitoring. Our research digs in to the drivers and barriers to adoption, and I encourage you to read the full report being published later this month on this important, and potentially game-changing field.

We at PCHAlliance, together with our colleagues and collaborators at CTA, are committed to creating the evidence, providing a strong voice and promoting greater awareness and acceptance for digital therapeutics. I invite you to join us on this path to support the adoption of personal connected health and digital therapeutics to improve clinical outcomes, reduce healthcare spending and empower individuals to better self-manage their health and wellness.