There is a transition in the fundamental approach to delivery of healthcare services today with a rising use of personalised technology solutions such as digital therapeutics. With a rapid rise in lifestyle and metabolic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, the usage of digital therapeutics is expanding from prevention to treatment of such metabolic disorders.
Digital therapeutics (DTx) is a subset of digital health that uses conventional healthcare principles with advanced technology to enhance the quality of care and outcomes holistically. The most important thing about DTx is the processes are based on clinical evidence and real-world outcomes.
As per Deloitte, doctors will increasingly make diagnostic and treatment decisions on predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory healthcare programmes powered by DTx. The evolution and usage of AI, IoT, and advanced data analytics in healthcare practice have been instrumental in creating more reliable, voluntary, and customized disease management programs for individuals.
A key facilitator of this transition is the emergence of wearables and point-of-care diagnostic devices that are non-invasive, but accurate at par with medical-grade machines providing further power to the DTx systems. The global DTx market is estimated to cross the $13 billion mark in market value by 2026.
Metabolic diseases: a core focus of Digital Therapeutics
Metabolism has a direct bearing on our overall health. Those with poor metabolism are at a significantly higher risk of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, or heart problems. However, there are various misconceptions caused by lack as well as excess to unverified information on metabolic disorders. The biggest myth is that metabolic syndrome is a specific disease whereas actually, it is a combination of various factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides. Nearly one-third of the Indian population suffers from metabolic syndrome, and most of them are not even aware of it. The prevalence is higher in women, senior citizens, and urban residents with sedentary lifestyles.
Challenges in identifying metabolic diseases
Since metabolic disorders are a combination of multiple factors, it is a myth that these can be diagnosed by a single blood test. Diagnosis can be quite tricky, and multiple blood tests are usually needed to accurately detect them. There are several pointers of metabolic problems and a person with three or more of these is highly likely to have a metabolic syndrome or poor metabolic health. These indicators include
A waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women (measured across the belly)
A blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or consumption of medicines to control blood pressure
A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl
A fasting blood glucose (sugar) level greater than 100 mg/dl or if you already have diabetes and are taking glucose-lowering medications.
A high-density lipoprotein level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl (men) or under 50 mg/dl (women)
Conventionally, when a person is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome or associated diseases, it is widely assumed that medication is the only way to manage the conditions. However, digital therapeutics has amply demonstrated that individualized and holistic programmes focusing on nutrition, exercise, monitoring, stress & sleep management with lifestyle changes can control, prevent and even reverse the problems.
The benefits of Digital Therapeutics
Digital therapeutics offers many benefits for both patients and doctors alike. The usage of advanced technologies and digital monitoring empowers patients to understand and self-manage their health conditions. There is a greater adherence to therapies that are holistic and less invasive than conventional treatment procedures.
Since the processes are based on scientific evidence and demonstrated results, there is less risk of side effects or adverse outcomes. Patients suffering from conditions such as diabetes, dyslipidemia, or hypertension can improve their condition, and reduce intake or prevent the start of medication. This provides them with greater confidence and has a positive impact on their mental health as well.
With digital therapeutics, doctors can enhance patient experience and support their patients beyond the clinic. They can also remotely and accurately get updates on the patient’s vitals and health conditions helping them recover within the comfort and privacy of their homes.
The road ahead
With more than 77 million people already having diabetes, 90 million at risk of diabetes (have prediabetes), and another 30 million people estimated to be at risk of heart problems, India is staring at an explosion of metabolic diseases. The fact that 25 per cent of these people are overweight, and 30 per cent suffer from hypertension makes the scenario ideal for digital therapeutics interventions3.
With such innovative and effective treatment processes, doctors can offer predictive, preventive, personalised, and participatory therapies. The ease as well as positive outcomes can help ensure greater adherence and better outcomes for them. There is no doubt that digital therapeutics is the most impactful and convenient use of technology for the future of metabolic disease management in India as well as globally!