Healthcare systems are grappling with the immense challenges of improving care and clinical outcomes, expanding access and outreach, as well as improving care management — while optimizing efficiencies and cost, including shifting payment models.

A new category is emerging that could be a game-changing approach to healthcare. Disruptors are developing new access points for healthcare to move beyond the pill to a “healthware” (healthcare and software) approach to deliver better outcomes, improve access and lower costs.

The Next Big Thing

The hottest sector is Digital Therapeutics (DT). It’s about solutions and platforms that deliver clinically-relevant therapies through digital tools and apps. It’s like having a health coach in your pocket 24/7.

Innovative startups, healthcare providers and payers are pushing targeted health and wellness messages when and where needed — often through an app on a patient’s smartphone. Also known as software-as-a-drug, DT is gaining attention as an alternative or enhancement of drug or in-person treatment. In some cases, it could replace medical treatments.

Digital Therapeutics can amplify doctors’ care. It’s a tool to help people track their health, change behaviors by adopting healthier lifestyles or motivate implementation of the ones that are most beneficial to their condition. It is used to treat preventive and costly chronic diseases without the side effects of drugs and to provide outcome-based reimbursement while bending the healthcare cost curve.

Recently, a group of digital health startups launched the Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA) to advance adoption and integration of digital therapeutic solutions. Members will collaborate to develop rigorous clinical studies and pilot programs, industry standards for new protocols of care, and shared data repositories.

More consumer tech companies are focusing on the clinical provider space, or repositioning themselves for payer wellness and reimbursement programs. While this is a more difficult market to penetrate than direct to consumers, it offers tremendous rewards. The Digital Therapeutics market is expected to reach $9 billion
by 2025, up from about $1.7 billion in 2016, according to Grand View Research.

More consumer tech companies are focusing on the clinical provider space, or repositioning themselves for payer wellness and reimbursement programs. While this is a more difficult market to penetrate than direct to consumers, it offers tremendous rewards. The Digital Therapeutics market is expected to reach $9 billion by 2025, up from about $1.7 billion in 2016, according to Grand View Research.

Two Driving Trends

Two key trends are fueling this growth, based on the need to reduce healthcare spending. The first is the shift from a physician-centric universe to a consumer-centric world. This is also about consumer empowerment to manage costly diseases like diabetes and obesity, as well as the opportunities and need for continuous monitoring through the IoT. The second trend is the largest growing global demographic: aging populations. Unless contained, chronic disease management will reach crisis magnitude.

CTA and PCHAlliance

CTA’s Health and Fitness Technology Division announced a new, strategic collaboration
with the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHAlliance) around Digital Therapeutics,
at the Connected Health Conference in Boston. This collaboration aims to understand
the demand, adoption and market trends related to Digital Therapeutics among patients
and health care professionals as well as from technology and pharmaceutical companies.

“We are very pleased to collaborate with CTA, and engage our respective communities to help define and shape this emerging approach for treating disease through digital technologies, which can be a substitute for traditional drug therapies or a complement to enhance the effectiveness of drug therapies,” says Rich Scarfo, vice president of PCHAlliance. “One example is the use of virtual reality as an alternative to pain medication, demonstrating its potential to help address the opioid epidemic in the U.S.”

On January 11, CES will feature a half-day workshop, disruptive innovations in healthcare, features three topics: 1) Global healthcare technology — how access and delivery is changing health. 2) Personal health and the role of technology. 3) Pharmaceuticals — can technology help replace them? Learn more at CES.tech.

Susan Schreiner

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