Dr Arbinder Singal
The times are nothing short of exciting for India’s healthcare segment. Technology has always been the panacea for several used cases related to healthcare access, but in the last year, innovations like digital therapeutics have placed patients and their health outcomes at the center of the ecosystem, enabling them to take charge of their health, beyond just medications.
The emergence of digital therapeutics
Digital therapeutics is a subset of digital health and revolves around delivering evidence-based interventions through high-quality software programmes. The interventions are directed at a specific health condition such as diabetes or heart disease to improve outcomes. The digital therapeutics approach to diabetes care revolves around three things: prevention, management, and remission. At Fitterfly, we have developed advanced technology based on the premise that every person has a different glycemic response and therefore, the interventions are also personalized according to the individual. Through a digital therapeutics platform, people living with diabetes are offered a tailor-made programme involving diet-related guidance, and access to motivation and physical wellness coaches. All of this is done in close coordination with the doctors. The idea is to provide holistic support as well as enable people living with the condition to self-regulate their journey. Our research shows that beyond lowering blood sugars, the digital therapeutics approach is enabling people with diabetes to achieve better sleep quality, lower their stress, and improve energy levels and productivity. For people with diabetes having joint pains, there is good improvement in mobility and fitness as well.
A growing need and market
As per recent estimates, the digital therapeutics market worldwide is growing at a CGR of 24 per cent and is expected to reach a value of $28.21 billion in 2030. The potential of this technology is even more pronounced in developing countries like India, which have a large population and increasing adoption of smartphones and other devices. If 2022 was a year that put digital therapeutics in the spotlight, 2023 will ensure that the DTx technology gets embedded in India’s healthcare ecosystem for better outcomes.
The road ahead
The burden of chronic diseases is increasing in India – from diabetes to cardiovascular diseases. Lifestyle disorders affect millions. This is a largely underserved market. For these conditions, the first line of therapy should be lifestyle management aimed at fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being. This is an area where digital therapeutics are emerging as a game-changer. The time is ripe for this futuristic solution as the first line of therapy that goes beyond the pill to help people track, analyze, and monitor their conditions.
Even healthcare providers are now more open to the idea of involving patients in the treatment journey. Digital therapeutics can help in driving behavioral change, which is the need of the hour. With DTx, it is becoming possible to monitor and manage patients in real-time and take the necessary interventions sooner rather than later. Healthcare providers can partner with DTx platforms as the next step. By offering personalized diagnostics, it will become possible to motivate patients through the different stages of their journey as well. The year ahead will see it emerge as the next frontier in healthcare.
Digital therapeutics and employee wellness
Traditionally, employers have offered access-based healthcare solutions to their employees, such as insurance, blood tests, and teleconsults. But none of them have added health outcomes as the final metric. With the adoption of digital therapeutics for the vulnerable 30 per cent of the workforce living with prediabetes, obesity, diabetes, PCOS, dyslipidemia, hypertension, or heart disease, health outcomes can be tracked and improved manyfold. This can result in significant long-term savings as well as enhancement of productivity.
In a country like India where universal healthcare is still a dream (an achievable one with public-private collaborations), DTx can play a very vital role. The increasing number of people with lifestyle diseases underscores that the focus should be placed on monitoring lifestyle therapy versus pharmacological treatment. This can be done by easing regulatory obstacles and providing incentives to health tech companies in the year ahead. One such can be GST set off or reimbursement by insurance companies. A merger of technology and biology to understand the way forward will be well worth the effort!
Dr ArbinderSingal, Co-Founder and CEO, Fitterfly