By Dr Suhas Patil
Chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are also called lifestyle diseases. Therefore, the treatment of these diseases would seem to be as simple as improving your lifestyle by changing your behaviour, wouldn’t it? But as we all can agree, knowing is not the same as doing. When it comes to exercising and eating right, you know you should do it, but just how hard is it to make sure you do it consistently? Behaviour change is complex. It needs consistency and constant nudging to make it an implementable reality.
Your pocket likely holds the next blockbuster therapy
Digital therapeutics (DTx) is an innovative concept that offers powerful and compelling possibilities in health care. Its use through a simple tool such as the smartphone allows for precision in therapy and personalization of treatment. As we transition to value-based care, DTx plays a crucial role in it. DTx refers to the application of digital technology to facilitate disease prevention, treatment, and management. Using smartphones, wearables, and health monitoring devices, patients can self-report their health parameters and get advice from a team of healthcare specialists for treatment adherence and behaviour change. When combined with conventional medicine-based therapy, DTx can help patients manage chronic diseases independently. All of this is at your fingertips, on your very own smartphone.
Research studies indicate improved patient outcomes
A recent study by Phable – a chronic disease management (CDM) start-up based in Bangalore, established the effectiveness of digital therapeutics in the management of hypertension (high blood pressure). An intervention program was designed, in which participants adopted the Phable app for 12 weeks, for the day-to-day management of their health. The DTx interventions included dietary modification, physical activity, patient education, self-monitoring, and stress management.
At the end of 12 weeks, the participants reduced their blood pressure by an average of 28/19 mmHg from a baseline reading of 155/127 mmHg to 127/82 mmHg. Amongst the participants, 67.6% returned to controlled blood pressure levels of
A widespread public adaptation of Phable’s DTx application, when integrated with primary healthcare, can be effective in reducing high blood pressure in patients with uncontrolled hypertension. If the use of DTx is sustained over a longer period, medications, frequent visits to the hospital, and corresponding expenses can be avoided.
There are several advantages to digital therapeutics, the biggest being the lack of side effects, unlike with medicines. Its benefits also spill over to the prevention and easier management of other health problems related to the primary condition, such as diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, and cardiovascular diseases. At an individual level, DTx can help you manage your health from the comfort of your home, just with a device we use throughout the day. Incredibly, the management of chronic diseases is no harder than using a social app.
In India, DTx has tremendous utility and scope, given that the healthcare infrastructure is still developing, more skewed towards urban centres, and not within the reach of a large section of the population. With India slated to have 1 billion smartphone users by 2026, with the effective use of DTx, we are poised to make healthcare accessible, affordable, and effective for all.
Dr Suhas Patil, Director – Medical Strategy, Phable
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