Businesses that are serious about reducing health care costs — and improving the health and well-being of their employees — should take a serious look at digital therapeutics, which have the potential to provide effective, low-cost ways to prevent and treat chronic diseases and their consequences. Digital therapeutics are technology-based solutions that have a clinical impact on disease comparable to that of a drug. They primarily use consumer-grade technology such as mobile devices, wearable sensors, big data analytics, and behavioral science and can be delivered through web browsers, apps, or in conjunction with medical devices. They can also be deployed in real time and at scale, which is critical for intervention in chronic diseases.
These broad applications now include artificial-intelligence-driven smartphone apps that monitor patient activity and social interaction to detect and intervene in episodes of clinical depression, pills with ingestible embedded sensors that can tell patients and doctors whether a medication has been taken properly, and asthma inhalers that connect with networks of air-quality sensors to provide personalized feedback on the connections between patient behavior and environmental factors. (Full disclosure: One of us, Joseph Kvedar, is an advisor to several companies involved in the digital therapeutics space, including Claritas Mindsciences, Mavericks Capital, PureTech, and MD Revolution.)