In today’s interconnected world, technology has now become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. It’s hard to imagine how we communicated, worked, or even relaxed before the era of smartphones, social media, and virtual assistants. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a further acceleration as we came to rely on technology for remote work, virtual learning, and staying connected with our loved ones. The pandemic also transformed healthcare in particular – facilitating telemedicine and virtual consultations. This opened our eyes, as a society, to the possibility of using technology to make healthcare more accessible, patient-centric, and effective.
One significant advancement that has emerged from this shift is Digital Therapeutics (DTx), a field that utilizes digital technologies to address medical conditions. The advent of DTx brings us closer to the dream of world-class medical care for everyone, everywhere! For a country like India, home to some of the finest medical and technology professionals globally, this makes even more sense as home-grown DTx innovations have the potential to democratise quality care and reducing the burden on physical infrastructure.
So, what are some of the ways that the common (wo)man can benefit? For starters, cost-effective sensors and wearable devices will make it easier and more cost-effective for healthcare professionals to monitor at-risk patients. This allows patients to carry on with their lives, knowing that their biovitals are being remotely monitored. This is especially needed since Indians have four times the risk of heart disease than the average global population.
Furthermore, DTx reduces the cost of healthcare – slowing disease progression, reducing the need for repeated hospitalization and driving faster recovery through better compliance with prescribed protocols. A study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted that ~49% of angioplasty patients do not follow up with their cardiologists on time and ~40% discontinued vital medication within 90 days of their procedure. This significant decline is mostly due to behavioral and logistical factors. However, implementing DTx, which offers patients home-based care and timely medication alerts, effectively addresses these issues.
India’s presidency of the G20 in 2023 has placed a critical emphasis on health equity, prioritizing efforts to enhance global health outcomes and combat health disparities. To achieve these goals, Digital Therapeutics presents an innovative solution. By leveraging its ability to connect patients in smaller towns and remote areas with healthcare providers based in top tertiary centers in metropolitan cities, digital therapeutics can make a significant impact in improving access to healthcare. The success of the Indian Government’s E-Sanjeevani telemedicine program is a promising indicator of the improved outcomes that can be achieved through DTx.
For DTx to be truly impactful, it should combine Artificial Intelligence with human intervention. By combining AI algorithms with human intervention, healthcare professionals can leverage Machine Learning capabilities to analyze medical images, expedite diagnosis, and improve treatment planning. There are several interesting use cases of how AI accelerates the drug discovery process – bringing life-saving medication to the market in record time. This synergy between AI and human expertise revolutionizes healthcare delivery and empowers clinicians to provide more efficient and personalized care.
Digital Therapeutics is poised to revolutionize healthcare by leveraging emerging technologies to enhance access, affordability, and patient outcomes. The widespread adoption of DTx has the potential to democratize healthcare, improve health outcomes, and reduce healthcare disparities, ultimately creating a more patient-centric and efficient healthcare ecosystem. In countries like India, by embracing the potential of DTx, we can pave the way for a future where quality healthcare is accessible to all, regardless of geographical constraints or socio-economic barriers. The time has come to embrace the transformative power of technology and embark on a journey towards a healthier and more inclusive society.
The confluence of low-cost sensors, AI advancements, seamless connectivity, and shifting attitudes toward digital health presents a transformative opportunity for Digital Therapeutics. As we enter this defining decade, the foundation has been laid, and we can anticipate numerous groundbreaking use cases in the near future. Oh what a time to be alive!
This article was first published in CNBC TV18 on May 17, 2023