Modern Healthcare Delivery – The Difference Between Digital Therapeutics and Telehealth
In this COVID-19 environment, we are experiencing the growing power of digital tools helping us to better track and manage our health and appreciate more fulfilling daily experiences. This is certainly true in our personal lives, as we have turned to and become reliant on FaceTime, Zoom and other e-connections to stay connected to family and friends, and even more so when it comes to healthcare management, with the COVID-19 pandemic forever impacting the way healthcare is delivered.
The use of modern resources such as virtual visits coordinated via telehealth continues to grow and impact the ways that providers interact with patients. Additionally, over the past several years, digital therapeutics has emerged as a game-changing subset of healthcare delivery that benefits patients in a remote care setting. As providers and their patients prioritize the use of these digital tools in our COVID-19 distanced environment, it’s important to be aware of what these terms mean and how they relate to one another.
What Are Digital Therapeutics?
Digital therapeutics are treatments that utilize digital health technologies to encourage changes in patient behavior to improve outcomes. For optimal success, they focus just as much, if not more, on behavioral and lifestyle changes in addition to clinical condition management and are delivered through digital channels – such as apps or mobile messaging.
Because of the digital nature of the methodology, data can be collected and analyzed both as a preventative measure and a progress report. Treatments are being developed for the prevention and management of a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, maternal-child health, brain health, cancer, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and several others.
Several key benefits of digital therapeutics are:
Increasing patient adherence – such as pre- and post-treatment/procedure steps, medication management reminders, and appointment and follow-up reminders.
Enhancing patient engagement – patients have on-demand access to resources, supportive content, and information needed to manage their condition(s) and lifestyle.
Utilizing proven alternatives (i.e., non-drug) treatments where appropriate – such as the use of music as an integrative, supportive therapy to calm, relax and restore the mind while going through treatment.
Digital therapeutics are also helping to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery to improve access, reduce costs, increase quality, and make medicine and experiences more personalized. The use of modern technologies and digital services is not only changing the way we communicate, but they also offer us more innovative ways for monitoring our health and well-being, giving us greater access to personal data for self-management.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth, or telemedicine, allows a provider to “see” a patient without an in-person visit. Healthcare providers may use telehealth platforms like live video, audio, or instant messaging to address a patient’s concerns and diagnose their condition remotely. This may include giving medical advice, reviewing at-home exercises, or recommendations to a local provider or facility.
Of course, treating certain diseases or conditions remotely can be challenging. Telemedicine is often used to treat common illnesses, manage chronic conditions, or provide specialty services. If a patient is dealing with an emergent or serious condition, the provider will encourage in-person care.
What Are the Biggest Differentiators?
The emergence of telehealth allows providers to connect with patients regardless of location, and creates opportunities for bi-directional, ongoing, personalized communications and engagement. Digital therapeutics are on-demand and personalized, helping patients manage their conditions and give them the opportunity to seek support in their moment of need. Telehealth is transactional, while digital therapeutics are transformational.
Even more uniquely impactful is that digital therapeutics tap into human motivation and cognition to deliver content and resources. Digital therapeutics provide an ongoing connection with patients, providers, health plans, and pharmaceutical/biotech companies to establish continued trust and foster relationships – at anytime, anywhere. While telehealth is a valuable advancement to health care delivery, digital therapeutics are the future of personalized remote care management in that they empower patients with the ability to initiate support, care, and guidance when they need it, encouraging a truly collaborative approach to care management.
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