Digital health vs. Digital therapeutics vs. Digital medicine. Which is the best choice for you?

Mansha Kapoor
April 18, 2023

Digital Healthcare in 2023

Digital health has given healthcare facilities an unrecognizable facelift. It is quicker with results, more specific, and more patient-centric. It is now an indispensable part of a universally fast-tracked life that faces manifold challenges to its healthiness quotient. These challenges could be physical, mental, or neural. An expeditious diagnosis and redressal is the only way to get back on one’s feet with minimum personal damage. 

With the Covid-19 pandemic, another rider has been added: a mandate for minimum personal physical interaction. In the current scenario, health and maintenance must be done remotely.  Digitization with software and platforms has created medical technology with components for remote patient monitoring systems aimed at improving health and healthcare.  

It is the omniscient presence of digital technologies, such as smartphones, instantly accessible mobile apps, and Bluetooth-connected wearables, that facilitate personalized patient care and expands access to health care. A wide range of applications, including telemedicine, electronic health records (EHRs), mHealth (mobile health), and health information systems, is what we look at when choosing a course for seeking medical care.

Advancement of Technology in Digital Health

Digital technology has vastly ramped up healthcare delivery and consequently altered the healthcare industry as a whole. These would include not only the patients but also the processes managing clinical research trials, FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulations, and the medical outcomes taken to the market. Digital health initiatives, therefore, combine and integrate financial, organizational, human, and technological resources. Technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, sensors, wearable devices ( like blood pressure meters, glucometers, and heart rate meters) Internet of things, Blockchain, big data, and other applications are being used for Electronic data capture (EDC), and generating Electronic health records (EHR). EHRs help healthcare providers to keep track of a patient's medical history, medications, and test results, improving the accuracy and efficiency of care.  

ePRO or Patient-reported outcomes is another web-based way of reporting a patient’s symptoms in real-time, which in turn improves patient outcomes, increases access to care, reduces healthcare costs, and thus works towards an enhanced healthcare delivery. A medical practitioner or a clinical research professional, by accessing these records, can act quickly in even reversing adverse events. Digital health, therefore, enables patients to connect with a healthcare provider remotely, reducing the need for in-person visits and facilitating more convenient access to care.

Benefits of Digital Health

 Active and aggressive implementation of medical digital technology makes an easily accessible and very flexible healthcare system available to one and all. It allows people remotely situated to avail quality medical help without necessary commuting. The open information on health, treatment complications, and comorbidities found on the internet gives patients and their families the to prime themselves on possible treatments and better quality of life.

With the digitization of medicine, low-income groups can also access and reach good quality diagnostic and consulting services without being hampered by barriers of distance, time constraints or astronomical costs. Other benefits include:

1.  Improved Patient Outcomes:

Digital health technologies help healthcare providers monitor patients more closely and make more informed treatment decisions, leading to improved patient outcomes.

2. Reduced Healthcare Costs:

By improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery, these technologies have considerably reduced the overall cost of healthcare and have the potential to further bring it down.

3. Enhanced Patient Engagement:

Patients and participants of clinical trials can participate more proactively because of access to their health records and a robust communication channel with their healthcare provider.

4. Improved Data Management:

Digital health technologies help streamline the collection, storage, and analysis of health data, leading to more accurate and up-to-date information for healthcare providers.

5. Improved Public Health:

Digital health systems, by providing healthcare providers with real-time information about disease outbreaks and public health emergencies, can facilitate preparing nations more stringently. Individual patients, too, can prevent diseases by submitting their EHRs for prognostics to their medical practitioners.


Benefits of Digital Therapeutics

The digital transformation of medicine and its applications has created a medical avatar that uses software to deliver treatment backed by evidence. Its abilities range from scheduling visits to delivering care and even managing bill payments. This very broad category of medical interventions is called digital therapeutics. Medical technology applied here includes:

1. Mobile health apps:

Apps that are designed to help patients manage their mental health, physical health, or chronic conditions, such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, and heart disease. These apps are downloadable on smartphones and are at hand by clicking a button.

2. Virtual Reality Therapy:

Using virtual reality environments to simulate real-life scenarios to help patients overcome phobias, anxiety, pain, or other mental conditions like bipolar disorder. This is especially targeted at people with physical disabilities who are confined to their homes.

3. E-therapy or Online Counseling: 

It has all the benefits of face-to-face physical therapy given by a practitioner. It refers to an online interaction between a patient and his healthcare provider. A form of psychotherapy that is delivered through the internet, typically via video conferencing, instant messaging, chat technology, or a combination of it all.

4. Digital Health Coaching:

Chronic medical conditions have become a trend to be feared. Traditional disease management practices are not enough to contain or treat them. This form of digital therapeutics offers a solution to prevent probable diseases and maintain wellness in the human race. A personalized program that provides education, support, and encouragement to help patients adopt healthy habits and make lifestyle changes.

The three major product categories for digital therapeutics, according to the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, are products that treat a disease or medical condition, manage a condition pre and post-treatment, and work towards improving a health function -  a convenient and accessible alternative to traditional in-person treatments, making it easier for people to seek help and support when they need it.

Benefits of Digital Medicine

This is a medical technology that uses hardware and software as tools of measurement and intervention. It supports the practice of medicine in disease treatment, recovery, prevention, and health promotion across all populations. It is more focused on generating evidence to support the use of technology. These tools can be used independently or in tandem with pharmaceuticals, biologics, devices, or any other medical product to optimize health care. Some digital medicines are programmed to give personalized information that can be utilized in deciding the course of treatment or suggesting a change in dosage. Examples of digital medicine include:

1. Measurement products:

Digital biomarkers (using a vocal biomarker to highlight a change in tremor for a Parkinson’s patient), electronic clinical outcome assessments, and tools that measure adherence and safety ( a wearable sensor that tracks falls).     

2. Intervention tools:

Products that are software-based and intervene in a patient’s health condition by evaluating and interpreting symptoms. Examples cited can be connected implantables like an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitors, EKG reading off a smartphone, and artificial pancreas.

How is Digital Health different from Digital Therapeutics & Digital Medicine?

Human health in yesteryears was not as it is today. It is becoming increasingly digitized. Digital health products are an integral part of the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of health and diseases. Their ready availability and easy access make them a perfect go-to solution for tracking fitness and optimizing personal well-being. For patients and clinicians alike, digital health products have greatly contributed to dealing with unaddressed and stubborn health issues. It is obvious to both consumers and practitioners that digital therapeutics, digital medicine, telemedicine, etc come under the larger umbrella of Digital health, and yet they are distinct concepts. Digital health refers to the use of technology to improve health and healthcare, while digital therapeutics specifically refers to the use of technology to treat medical and psychological conditions.

Digital health encompasses a wide range of tools and technologies that are used to share personal health information between patients and their healthcare providers. It might use:  1. Telehealth platforms 2. Exercise and diet apps 3. Medication adherence apps 4. Meditation and mindfulness apps 5. Fitness trackers that measure how far you walk or how well you sleep 6. Smartwatches that track health vitals (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, or sugar levels in the blood.)

Digital therapeutics, on the other hand, are a subset of digital health and refer specifically to the use of technology for the treatment of medical and psychological conditions. This could include things like mobile health apps, virtual reality therapy, e-therapy, or digital health coaching. digital therapeutics also include things like electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine, wearable devices, and other digital tools that support and enhance the delivery of healthcare services.

Digital medicine is another area of healthcare well within digital health. Technologically based, it refers to medical technology solutions that can intervene according to the evidence provided by the health parameters of a patient or a participant in a clinical trial. For example, wearable sensors that track blood sugar, such as continuous glucose monitors or CGMs, Smart insulin pens that can track and calibrate the amount of insulin being used by a patient, Pills that have built-in cameras that replace a colonoscopy and AI  or artificial intelligence that can screen and test for signs of cancer.

Which is the right choice for you?

Digital medical and healthcare technology has brought human health within a landscape which is scalable and is no longer space bound restricted to brick-and-mortar hospitals and clinics. Smartphones, mobile apps, wearable devices, and cloud-based data platforms have made medical treatment and disease management reachable for all, regardless of social, geographic, or economic limitations. Digital health, with its various components, gives democratic and flexible health solutions to the human race. It cannot be segregated or isolated. Depending on the disease or health issue, a digital health solution can be mobilized and activated. To say that one is preferable over another would be erroneous. For it all depends upon the patient, his parameters, and his prescription.

Mahalo Health is a healthcare platform that provides the industry with a fully equipped platform to store patient data, interact with patients and monitor their health remotely. From decentralized clinical trials to digital therapeutics and remote patient monitoring, Mahalo Health has the perfect technological solution to supplement your healthcare practice and engage your patients in a satisfying diagnostic experience. Contact us today!

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