Why aren’t digital therapeutics already ubiquitous?
Adoption has been one barrier to the emergence of digital health technologies, as can commonly be the case with any new technology. But signs suggest that this is a barrier we are now overcoming, with the recent pandemic being a key contributing factor to this. At the same Royal Society of Medicine conference, Dr John O’Dowd presented his ‘Pathway through Pain’ product, a DTx developed to mitigate back pain. The product was developed almost a decade ago, based on a proven face-to-face programme. O’Dowd explained that when the product was originally released, it proved to be “a complete flop.” However, fast-forward 10 years and despite little development of the product during this time it has now become commonly used. Even more fascinating is that O’Dowd explained this digital version of the therapy is on course to achieve equivalent or better results to in-person therapy in clinical evaluations.
Another barrier for DTx is where the liability lies. In a sea of so many health apps, including but by no means limited to digital therapeutics, how does a GP identify and recommend offerings which are clinically proven and trustworthy? Added to this is the unimaginable complexity of integrating a whole new genre of therapeutics into existing healthcare systems and regulatory landscapes around the globe. There may be plenty of innovations out there, but only a finite few with the appetite and the budget to push them through to market.
Finally, a barrier which is in vogue for almost any area of digital innovation today is data. Medical data is sensitive by nature, and even if a given patient community is willing to share it, the other party must still accept responsibility for storing and managing it. This issue of ownership may never have a simple answer, and the nuances of how it gets addressed will vary on a geographical level. It’s clear however, that any resolution requires a certain degree of trust and transparency between patient and service provider.