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MedTech

Digital Health Versus Digital Therapeutics: What are the Key Distinctions?

Woman typing on a laptop with stethoscope nearby

Technology continues to change the landscape of healthcare every year. As technologies continue to evolve, the understanding of individual health is also changing. Monitoring and improving health through technology is becoming more accessible to the average American and even worldwide.

Americans are turning to digital health technologies and digital therapeutics to become more aware of their healthcare needs and take action to improve their overall health and well-being. But understanding these technologies is the first step in using them effectively. What is digital health? What are digital therapeutics? Is there a difference?

What is Digital Health?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines “digital health” as an umbrella of digital health services, including:

  • Mobile health
  • Health information technology
  • Wearable devices
  • Telehealth and telemedicine
  • Personalized medicine
  • Mobile medical apps
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Software as a medical device

Broadly, digital health is the use of technology within healthcare, whether it is used within a medical care setting or by an individual.

The FDA recognizes that digital health helps decrease the overall costs of healthcare, in both the long and short term. It also notes that digital health can make healthcare more effective.

What Are Digital Therapeutics?

Digital therapeutics is a subset of digital health. It provides evidence-based, software-driven services for the prevention and management of a medical disorder or disease. Digital therapeutics has been formally defined as “evidence-based behavioral treatments delivered online that can increase accessibility and effectiveness of healthcare.”

Digital therapeutics can be provided alone or paired with other health services, such as medication, other therapies, or medical devices. The goal is to optimize patient care and have better overall health outcomes.

An Example of Digital Therapeutics

The Digital Therapeutics Alliance provides several examples of digital therapeutics. One such example is called BlueStar, developed by Welldoc. This product is targeted toward those who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

It is offered as an app, or users can access it from a website. The product helps patients monitor, track, and control their diabetes. Individuals receive over 30,000 automated, tailored coaching messages that encourage them to take steps to help control their diabetes, The coaching messages include  medication reminders and encouragement to engage in physical activity and make smart food choices.

What is the Difference Between Digital Health and Digital Therapeutics?

Digital therapeutics is a subset of digital health. Digital health broadly describes any time that technology is used in healthcare. Digital health covers not only healthcare but also technology that encourages general well-being—from food trackers to mediation apps.

Digital therapeutics, on the other hand, is a much more high-level service. Unlike other digital health services, it must be based on clinical evidence. These treatments are reviewed and vetted by regulatory bodies. They must be certified to support their product claims, and they have regulations that affect what they must tell users about risks, effectiveness, and the intended uses of products. Digital therapeutics address a specific illness, disease, condition, or another health-related issue.

Looking Forward: What Does the Future Hold for Digital Health and Digital Therapeutics?

Digital health products as a whole are expected to increase. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to showcase digital health options in a whole new light. Those who may have been unwilling to visit a doctor through telehealth before the pandemic have now been forced to use that technology in many cases. Some are stating that COVID-19 is a “golden opportunity to consolidate the advances achieved in digital health and vital care.”

Even beyond the hospital or formal healthcare setting, digital health resources are empowering individuals to take control of their healthcare in a whole new way. Today, individuals have access to more of their health information than they ever have before, which can help them make better decisions to live long, healthy lives.

This technology can also be used to gather health data from consumers. That data will assist health and wellness companies so they can create better, more tailored products that will also have increased rates of effectiveness.

The Future of Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapeutics are expected to increase and become more and more common in the future. This is particularly true in light of the increasing demand on the healthcare system. In an article written toward the end of 2019, experts in the digital therapeutics field note that 2020 is the first year that people over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 5. People are living longer, which is extremely taxing on the healthcare system.

As the demand for healthcare increases, creative solutions will be required to keep up effectively. Digital therapeutics can provide a workable resolution that will not require additional manpower.

Companies that are offering digital therapeutics are also exploring ways to use this unique healthcare service to address areas of unmet needs, such as in chronic kidney disease and in pediatrics. As effectiveness improves, so will the confidence in these types of treatments. Further, because digital therapeutics are required to meet regulatory restrictions, consumers can also put more trust into these products moving forward.

If you are interested in custom software solutions from Creed to help expand the digital health capabilities at your practice, please contact us for a consultation.