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Wear Your Health: How Wearables & Digital Therapeutics Are Transforming Healthcare
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Wear Your Health: How Wearables & Digital Therapeutics Are Transforming Healthcare

By Priyobroto April 19, 2024 - 36 views

With a growing shift towards personalised healthcare, technological adoption has simultaneously grown by leaps and bounds. This technology-driven framework has extended not just towards mainstream healthcare, but also the pharma biotech sector. Have you heard of therapeutics? It refers to how a medical treatment/therapy is administered. The digital revolution has enabled the advent of devices that can easily track physical aspects, such as wearables, while therapeutic products are now being increasingly developed to leverage the same. The initial DTX (digital therapeutics) instances worldwide are already contributing towards better outcomes for patients. Of course, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had already issued its approval for 35 DTX-based applications last year and the number may go up exponentially in the near future.

Remember pedometers (if you were born in the 1960s or 1970s or simply have parents or others who have used these devices)? These humble devices were the first of many steps towards tracking physical fitness and health. Electronic trackers made it to the market sometime late in the 2000s and early 2010s. The initial brief was measuring steps, followed by blood oxygenation and heart rates and eventually sleep quality, stress levels, hydration and what not. Wearables started absorbing many of these functions of trackers, including smart watches and now smart rings. The data gathered by these devices can now be easily monitored and viewed on dedicated apps that run on computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

How Therapeutics Are Stacking Up

There is a compelling proposition offered by therapeutics and wearables in terms of bringing about a complete transformation of the healthcare industry worldwide. They have made it possible for the sector to track the health statuses of patients, diagnose problems, take preventive action, enhance epidemiology, manage operations, and of course, ensure that treatment or rehabilitation procedures are followed. Some of the top choices in this context include the following:

  • Blood glucose meters- While they have been around for quite some time and cater to diabetics, they are now enabling people with data that helps them decide on taking insulin shots or not. Newer versions do not require any blood to be drawn, while GCMs or continuous glucose meters come with sub-dermal probes and may be worn for longer periods to offer readings at intervals of five minutes each. Electronic diabetes patches and pumps are also taking the GCM route while some depend on patients for activation. Some devices also enable insulin delivery automatically.
  • Motion Sensors- Innovation is afoot in this space too. For instance, MEDRhythms has created a digital therapeutics system that helps those who are impaired when it comes to walking. This includes those suffering from Parkinson’s or strokes. It helps them regain their walking stride while depending on research and linking motion sensors to shoes for gaining data continually. An algorithm then comes into play for tweaking musical patterns that patients listen to. This helps them change and eventually enhance their gaits.
  • Non-Physical Treatment- Some early instance of DTXs (digital therapeutics) involves non-physical treatment. For instance, consider cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT for those addicted to opioids based on data that shows the times when they are likely to relapse. Nowadays, there are smartphone apps that help in the administration of therapies, including offering guidance on particular activities. Mahana IBS has created another application-based DTX that helps those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It enables CBT and education delivery while guiding people on managing their specific symptoms.
  • New-Age Technologies- Some of the technologies that are driving digital therapeutics (DTXs) include sensors like IR, glucose, microphone, gyroscope/accelerometer, ultrasound, temperature and heat, imaging, location, laser emitter, spectrometer, and RFID. Other digital tools include the Internet of Things (IoT) for wearables, virtual reality, apps, mobile devices and more.
  • Health tracking devices- These are wearables which are tailored to enable better communication and processing along with energy storage. These devices can easily track vital signs including body temperature, heart rates, blood pressure, and several other indicators. This data is dispatched to medical professionals via apps.

Some other categories of therapeutic devices include insulin pumps and rehabilitation devices along with pain relief and respiratory therapy devices. Activity trackers can also help measure properties in relation to particular diseases or ailments as well. They usually sync the data that they gather with applications and then dispatch the same to cloud platforms for further evaluation and analysis.

The Road Ahead

The global market for therapeutics may have touched $4.5 billion in 2022 in terms of revenues, as per forecasts by Markets and Markets. It has also predicted growth in revenues by 2027 to a whopping $17.7 billion. There will be growing emphasis on lowering the costs of healthcare and this will propel the segment towards greater heights, particularly when it comes to better outcomes and care delivery, higher efficiency, and reduced costs. Digital therapeutics will benefit patients across the board, saving them time and enabling access to continual tracking, guidance and education. They can flexibly access treatment/therapy along with anywhere-anytime support while not having to go through physical appointments and scheduling issues.

While saving time and money, DTXs will transform healthcare in underserved and un-served regions and communities considerably. Patients will have total empowerment in terms of monitoring and managing their health. They can also set objectives for progress based on feedback in real-time and also take better decisions regarding their treatments. It will greatly enhance patient satisfaction levels, especially for those managing chronic ailments or conditions. Recommendations and higher involvement are the two key aspects worth noting here. Patients benefit from support networks and forums in many cases, while the burden on the healthcare system will also go down significantly. Wearables integrate themselves easily into this context, enabling all-round advantages throughout the spectrum, as mentioned above. Caregivers will also benefit from better decision-making and access to vital data and real-time monitoring. It will help them automate routine and repetitive tasks including reminders for medication and tracking vital signs.

How this will expand is clear from the Deloitte Global Survey which states how 80%+ individuals now have an interest in these devices and technologies. Statista has also projected the ear-worn wearable market alone to grow to $44.16 billion and more by 2023 itself. Wearable technology will ultimately enable personalised healthcare since they will gather data in huge amounts on sleep patterns, activity, vital indicators, and more. It will help in the creation of customised treatment strategies while helping manage chronic diseases with regular monitoring and early identification of symptoms. Remote monitoring will be easy for healthcare professionals, while predictive analytics and machine learning can help identify potential medical problems prior to them getting out of hand. Wearables will also recommend steps and offer guidance on following healthy habits or behaviours that will eventually help with disease prevention.

FAQs

Can wearables and digital therapeutics support personalised lifestyle interventions, beyond medication management?

Digital therapeutics and wearables can be used to support personalised lifestyle interventions. These go beyond medication management, including recommendations on healthy habits and behavioural changes through proper motivation and data-based outcomes.

Can wearables and digital therapeutics be used to create personalised treatment plans for rare diseases?

For those suffering from rare ailments, digital therapeutics and wearables may be useful in enabling the creation of more personalised plans for treatment. This will be based on real-time tracking and analysis of health indicators and other data.

How do pharmaceutical companies ensure the compatibility of their medications with digital therapeutics and wearable technologies?

Pharmaceutical companies can ensure that their medication is compliant with wearable technologies and digital therapeutics through proper data integration and management. They can make sure that recommendations and reminders pertain to specific medication for particular use cases and treatment plans, while also gathering patient data to evaluate the efficacy of their products.

Are there examples of specific digital therapeutics designed for personalised mental health care?

There are a few examples in this segment worldwide, including EndeavorRX to help kids who have ADHD and Freespira for those with panic and anxiety-related disorders. Several other applications are being created to enable the personalisation of mental health treatments and care strategies.

What does the future hold for DTX and wearables in personalised healthcare?

Wearables and DTX will eventually herald a transformation of the healthcare industry. They will bring in greater personalisation, while giving patients more access and control over their own healthcare data. It will enable personalised recommendations and guidance for managing specific conditions/ailments, with real-time feedback, reminders and a lot more.

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