Digital therapeutics can fill a gap in the care model that traditional treatments are lacking.
Far from offering clients a quick fix, there is growing research that adding digital therapeutics to your treatment toolkit can lead to better health outcomes for your patients as they allow you to refer a non-medicated, non-invasive intervention; you can monitor and track patient progress remotely; and you can devise a holistic health plan that may normally be out of your scope of practice.
What you need to know about digital therapeutics
It's best to think of a digital therapeutic as a teammate, not the competition.
They can become valuable additions to your treatment toolkit, and suggesting the right digital therapeutic to the right person can serve everyone.
As a practitioner, your treatment plans can become more holistic and better integrated with your clients' lifestyles and health goals, and some could even help you broaden your services into new spaces. For example, a dietician could recommend a digital mental health therapeutic if they knew their clients would benefit from developing mindfulness practices or required additional stress and anxiety support.
For your clients, a digital therapeutic could become a valuable addition to their treatment plan, leading to better, more sustainable health outcomes.
Healthcare providers' familiarity with digital therapeutics can vary. Still, you should know that investments in digital therapeutics in the US have grown by an average of 40% per year over the past seven years to reach more than US$1 billion in 2018.
Evidence and research into their efficacy has grown too—a range of studies have been able to demonstrate improved outcomes for patients when digital therapeutics are used as either a stand-alone support tool or in conjunction with conventional treatments for a range of conditions, including cancer, ADHD, asthma, IBS, menopause, and insomnia.
The benefits of digital therapeutics
There are many benefits to recommending a digital therapeutic to your patients as either a frontline treatment tool, or as part of their inclusive care plan.
According to the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, some of these benefits include:
- reducing the stigma that might be associated with delivering certain traditional therapies face-to-face
- extending your ability as a healthcare practitioner to care for your clients: location is now one less barrier standing between you
- helping practitioners work with underserved populations, such as those living in a rural areal
- minimizing miscommunications as some digital therapeutics are offered in a range of languages
- improving access to support for clients with a disability
- generating more meaningful results and insights for clients based on personalized goals and outcomes.
Additionally, digital therapeutics can be particularly attractive for clients who have tried, and struggled, with traditional therapeutics, or are contraindicated to traditional therapies.
Six digital therapeutics that are here to help
Bloom for mental health support
Bloom is a self-guided therapy platform. It empowers its users to be their own therapists using video-guided interactive therapy sessions based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.
A digital therapeutic like Bloom can support healthcare practitioners wanting to develop a more holistic approach that integrates closely with a client's lifestyle. For example, the Bloom app features a journaling component, offering a space for users to jot down thoughts on their CBT sessions or anything at all that gets them working on retraining their brain and thought patterns.
So, if you were a nutritionist, incorporating an app like Bloom into your toolkit could help you work with clients to shift their mindset about their eating patterns. If you're an osteopath, this is the type of digital therapeutic you could call on to encourage your clients to tune into their mind-body connection more deeply.
Nerva for IBS
Gut-directed hypnotherapy program Nerva came about due to the enormous demand from people seeking answers and relief from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. In fact, the American College of Gastroenterology reports that people with IBS would give up to 10 to 15 years of life expectancy in exchange for an instant cure.
This means that Nerva customers are often highly motivated to find ways to lessen the frustrations and pain associated with IBS.
This digital therapeutic leads people through a six-week program of gut-directed hypnotherapy, which scientists found to be effective for between 70-80% of people with IBS.
If your clients are still associating hypnotherapy with what they've seen on YouTube involving mind control or pocket watches dangled in front of hapless victims, Nerva makes it clear from the start that they will always be in complete control as they're led through gut-healing visualizations.
Nerva is a low-risk digital therapeutic that you can recommend to your patients as either a stand-alone option or as part of the larger IBS management plan you've devised for them.
It's particularly suitable if they're looking for a natural option or perhaps aren't ready to commit to a low FODMAP diet.
You can also receive a symptom report at the start and end of the program to track their progress.
Insulia for type 2 diabetes
If you're working with people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, digital therapeutic Insulia is here to help your patients mange and monitor their insulin levels.
Insulia informs your patients in real-time about their recommended insulin dosage, which is based on their health data and their healthcare practitioner's treatment plan. It works to educate your patients on your behalf about why they are being prescribed a particular insulin dose on a day-to-day basis. They can monitor their own progress, and you'll have access to their data too, alerting you to any changes to their condition.
They'll also receive virtual coaching to help them stay on top of their treatment: this is what we mean when we say digital therapeutics can become your teammate, stepping in with extra support.
If you're a general practitioner, Insulia is also an excellent go-to for patients wanting to check on your prescribed treatment plan for them. This means fewer follow-up appointments with you as the answers they're looking for might have been recorded in the app. Plus, it could help jog someone's memory if their in-person consultation with you was some time ago.
Insulia's tools are also offered in a range of languages if you're working with clients from a non-English speaking background, helping cut down potential miscommunications.
Kaia Health for musculoskeletal issues
Kaia Health is a digital therapeutic designed for people with musculoskeletal issues needing preventative, acute, chronic, or pre-surgical care. It promises to fully integrate with you as a healthcare provider, whether you're a doctor, a physio, or an osteopath.
It offers physical exercise plans and mind-body relaxation techniques to help people incorporate pain-management strategies into their daily routines. Its built-in AI movement assistant will help your clients correct their posture and ensure they're performing exercises correctly and safely.
Kaia Health's technology also works to quantify movement as a digital biomarker. So, it will calculate your clients' flexibility, range of motion, and stability to determine their fitness levels—no wearable device required.
And for extra support for both you and your clients, it offers dynamic triage and escalation pathways where Kaia Health's medical providers can review your individual clients' cases.
It promises that its on-demand availability and client engagement capabilities will help free up your time, potentially allowing you to take on more clients or scale your practice. From this perspective, a digital therapeutic like Kaia Health can really work with you, not against you, and there are benefits for everyone.
Propeller for breathing conditions
Propeller is a digital therapeutic designed to support people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It aims to help people stick to their treatment plans and better understand what might be causing a flare-up.
Users can attach a sensor to their asthma inhaler, which delivers information and data straight to the Propeller app, tracking when, where, and how often they use their medication. It also has other helpful tools like a daily asthma forecast in users' locations, predicting how factors like the weather, air pollutants, and humidity are likely to affect their breathing.
Propellor collates its users' data into a handy report about their breathing patterns and behavior, which can be shared with their healthcare providers.
So, while your practice might not directly treat people with asthma or COPD, a treatment tool like Propeller can help you provide more intelligent, data-driven care, thanks to helpful insights that could influence your treatment recommendations and plans.
For example, suppose you're a dietician, and your client sees you for dietary guidance related to their allergies or asthma flare-ups. Propeller can help you provide more insightful treatment plans, with clients' self-generated data on hand to back up your recommendations.
Evia for menopause
Evia lends support via an evidence-based hypnotherapy program for women experiencing menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety.
According to a 2013 study, women experiencing symptoms like these reported significantly lower quality of life and higher work impairment and healthcare utilization than women without menopausal symptoms. This is why an intervention like Evia can be a gamechanger for your patients—women who completed the program experienced up to an 80% reduction in the frequency and severity of their hot flashes.
During the five-week program, Evia users participate in daily 15-minute hypnotherapy sessions to enter a state of absorbed attention. They'll subconsciously learn the tools that will help them self-regulate how their brains perceive temperature changes during menopause.
While many women interested in trialing Evia often seek non-hormonal support, a digital therapeutic like this isn't meant to replace the treatment plan you have developed for them. Instead, Evia can act as a low-risk supplement.
And as it's not location-dependent and women can participate in the program from literally anywhere, it can easily work in tandem with your own treatment recommendations.
Other digital solutions that lend support
Rimidi was created by clinicians, for clinicians. It aims to help you set priorities for patients and clients using one platform that operates within your existing electronic health record workflow.
You can use Rimidi to monitor your patients' conditions and symptoms, such as their blood pressure or blood glucose levels. And it allows you to make simple adjustments to your clients' treatment plans if required. You can also send them virtual encouragement if they need extra support.
Quenza can help a range of healthcare practitioners engage with their clients online, helping you deliver support, education, treatment tools, and plans. The idea with Quenza is it allows you to scale your business and serve more clients by cutting back the time you spend on admin through automating tasks like your intake process, onboarding, progress tracking, and follow-up activities.
Whether you're setting up an exercise regimen for a client or developing a weekly diet plan, Quenza lets you drag and drop your advice or education materials into its activity builder. It also provides a handy library of science-based activities for clients if you don't have time to build your own, or you want to supplement your activities with Quenza's.
One of its best features is the built-in chat function. This means fewer emails back and forth, which can be particularly helpful if you're trying to build a broader client base without location restrictions.
The Wrap Up
Digital therapeutics can fill a gap in the care model that traditional treatments are lacking. Incorporating them into your treatment toolkit can benefit both you and your patients. They will extend your ability to care for people in any location and in underserved populations; they’re more accessible for people with a disability; and the right digital therapeutic can help you generate more meaningful results and insights for your clients, leading to better health outcomes. Six of the best digital therapeutics are Bloom for mental health, Nerva for IBS, Insulia for type 2 diabetes, Kaia Health for musculoskeletal issues, Propeller for asthma, and Evia for menopause.