Digital Therapeutics: the future of healthcare is happening now
In this interview, Megan Coder, Founder of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance[i] (DTA) and Chief Policy Officer, shares her insights about how Digital Therapeutics (DTx) – an innovative and evidence-based treatment – can improve patients’ health outcomes. Megan draws on her clinical training as a pharmacist to explain more about digital therapeutics and their extensive, exciting benefits for patients and healthcare practitioners. She explains how DTx work, why she set up the DTA and how success for her means improving clinical and health outcomes for patients by making this a go-to option for prescribers.
What are Digital Therapeutics (DTx)?
DTx are part of a comprehensive ecosystem of Digital Health Technologies and deliver evidence-based therapies to patients using software that’s been specially designed to be safe and effective for preventing, treating, or managing a range of medical disorders or diseases. Examples include depression, opioid use disorder and alcohol dependency.
They can be used as a standalone treatment or, for patients suffering with complex health needs, as part of an overall treatment plan that includes face-to-face therapy and/ or pharmacological treatments.
Our members’ products have a rigorous evidence-base supporting their safety and clinical effectiveness. In practice this means they must meet the same standards as more conventional treatments as well as the DTA Core Principles.
Our members’ products have a rigorous evidence-base supporting their safety and clinical effectiveness.
How widely are DTx being used?
DTx is a new category of medical intervention and the legal requirements for regulation are still under discussion. By taking the initiative to create standards such as the DTA Core Principles, we’re putting a structure around best practices, data security, usability and evaluation.
This promotes transparency around what DTx should stand for and includes things like product safety, efficacy, quality, patient centricity, privacy and ongoing clinical impact.
We recognise that healthcare practitioners are accountable for their practice, and we want to make the right information available for clinicians so that they can focus on doing what’s best for their patients. And over time, there will be more clinical trials that healthcare professionals can trust to inform their practice.
How can DTx make a difference to patients?
DTx offer opportunities to overcome the barriers that have traditionally prevented some patients from accessing the healthcare they need.
Following clinician or payor authorization where required, they're entirely user-led, meaning patients can use DTx at a time that suits them without having to worry about the things that can make accessing treatment challenging, such as travel, mobility and stigma.
These treatments can be delivered straight into the hands of patients, regardless of where someone is in the world, the time zone they’re in or the language they speak. While the products themselves differ, the breadth of reach that digital health technologies have is so exciting.
We’re entering an era where we can truly tackle health inequalities, levelling up access to high quality healthcare and making a difference to more people’s lives.
What are healthcare professionals saying about DTx?
As with anything new, there are challenges with getting these treatments embedded in treatment pathways. Some of this responsibility is with regulators but, while that’s happening in the background, it’s important that we work with healthcare professionals to show them how this new category of medicine can support them with their workload and safely benefit their patients.
Let’s think about the context of a patient who has been waiting for months to see a clinician. There aren’t currently enough clinicians to meet patient needs, particularly in the public sector, and Covid-19 has led to a surge in demand due to issues that have emerged during, or as a result of, the pandemic.
Healthcare professionals can use DTx to manage their workload, by using their clinical expertise to assess which patients will safely benefit from them as a standalone treatment, or as a blend with face-to-face therapy. DTx aren’t a substitute for healthcare practitioners, but a tool they can use in several different ways.
What does the future hold for DTx?
At the moment in the US, we have still not overcome Covid-19. However, as we continue moving toward a more manageable steady state, I think the government will have more scope to drive DTx forward. We’ll start seeing more policies that lead to a better understanding of DTx in the market and more robust legislation.
It’s great that pharmaceutical companies like Orexo are at the forefront of this new category of medicine. And as with all treatments, bringing new DTx to the market is only possible when you have the clinical evidence to show it’s safe and effective.
Over time, and with increasing numbers of treatment pathways offering DTx, healthcare professionals will be empowered with more clinical evidence and use cases to inform their prescribing decisions.
I believe in the power of DTx to unlock treatment opportunities, tackle inequalities and optimise patient outcomes. This inspires me every day.
▶If you want to learn more about digital therapeutics please view www.dtxalliance.org
▶The DTA Core Principles are available here
Lena Wange, IR & Communications Director
For more information about Orexo please visit, www.orexo.com. You can also follow Orexo on Twitter, @orexoabpubl, LinkedIn and YouTube.