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Enter The Era Of Digital Therapeutics: How App-based, Self-managed Journeys Can Transform Global Healthcare

06/12/2017 13:49 GMT

As the digital health sector continues to evolve, a new category of tools and digital services called ‘Digital Therapeutics’ has emerged, and it has the power to revolutionise how people prevent and manage non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and relieve the burden on public health systems across the world.

Let’s take it back a notch first, you may be familiar with popular consumer apps such as Headspace and MyFitnessPal, which help us do things like meditate or manage our calorie consumption. Well, Digital Therapeutics are an evolution of these types of tools, which focus specifically on the prevention and management of NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, like diabetes (type 2), hypertension, and others.

Digital Therapeutics take things one step further by engaging people in personalised programs that combine behaviour change strategies with medical expertise, effectively becoming the individual’s health treatment or prevention program ‘prescribed’ to them. The ultimate intention is to keep people off medication and out of the hospital, living healthier and happier for longer.

The new health market

Health technology has gained irrefutable traction over the past few years. The mainstream adoption of activity trackers has raised general market awareness of the potential this technology has to transform approaches to health and helped consumers to recognise the need to take more accountability.

With these shifts in perspective, health technology developers, investors, health insurance companies and public bodies alike are now seeing the huge potential of Digital Therapeutics, and many companies are implementing their own digital programs. As an example, we’re working with leading insurance provider, Aviva, to launch Aviva Wellbeing, a platform which uses our intuitive technology to encourage its customers to be more engaged in their health.

Tackling a global health crisis

At present, global health systems are coping with ballooning rates of NCDs. The World Health Organisation reports that NCDs kill 40 million people a year, which is equivalent to 80 per cent of deaths globally.

What’s alarming is that some of the key causes of NCDs are behavioural factors such as diet, physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol consumption. As a result, NCDs are having the biggest impact on people in low and middle-income countries who have limited access to health services due to rising costs and are at a greater risk of having unhealthy diets and substance use.

Given these statistics, prevention-driven programs such as Digital Therapeutics are transformative in their ability to monitor and modify people’s behaviours.

Game-changing personal health care

What makes Digital Therapeutics unique is the way in which different programs are developed and tailored to the individual’s condition or health goals.

By using these platforms, patients have professional guidance at their fingertips, along with prompts on what behaviours they need to change on a daily basis, without needing to book an appointment. All the while, health professionals are receiving accurate and detailed insights to better guide the patient during their next visit.

Considering again the rising cost of healthcare and socioeconomic factors contributing to NCDs, Digital Therapeutics have the potential to create global healthcare equality by providing everyone with access to world-class knowledge and tailored health programs, regardless of their class, background or location.

Supporting the mission

Tictrac’s core platform is based on behaviour change, so we recognise the power these technologies have in helping repair the healthcare issues facing the world.

Take the expansion of our technology to Singapore, for example. More than 400,000 people have type 2 diabetes across the country and one in three is likely to get diabetes in their lifetime. In October this year, the Singapore Ministry of Health launched Healthhub Track, which provides all six million of Singapore’s citizens with access to our Digital Therapeutics programmes free-of-charge. This is a forward-thinking nation which is implementing smart technologies to help prevent illnesses, and gives a real glimpse into what the future of healthcare holds.

In the UK, we’re working on a number of partners who are helping lessen the burden on public health services, including Thriva, a company that offers home blood tests. Together, we’re working to ensure the user journey is automated, enabling individuals to avoid taking time off work to get their blood tested and reducing the pressure on already crowded labs.

With so many incredible Digital Therapeutics technologies being developed, we look forward to driving further adoption at a global level. What’s more, Digital Therapeutics developers don’t have to wait long to see the results of their efforts; with all the information being data-driven, we’re able to witness phenomenal outcomes emerging from the first day users engage with these platforms. The future of healthcare is happening now - and the impact will be incredible.

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