Digital innovation has shaped almost every aspect of the way we live our lives today. Struggling to find parking downtown? Want to start learning a new language today? Craving sushi from the town over but don’t want to get off the sofa? There’s an app for that. And these aren’t the only industries rapidly shifting because of technological innovation. Healthcare has also entered the digital world, with advances in informatics and technology in medicine, the patient experience is changing for the better.
What is Digital Medicine?
According to the Digital Medicine Society, digital medicine broadly describes a field concerned with the use of technologies as tools for measurement, and intervention in the service of human health. Digital medicine products are driven by high-quality hardware and software that support the practice of medicine broadly, including treatment, recovery, disease prevention, and health promotion for individuals and across populations.
What Types of Conditions Can Be Treated by Digital Therapeutics?
Practical examples of non-drug digital therapeutics available in the market include an extensive list of apps and products that target conditions including ADHD, speech/language/dyslexia, anxiety and depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, and substance use disorder. One area, in particular, that’s seeing hypergrowth in digital therapy is that of mental health. In just the past decade, digital therapeutics (DTx) products have demonstrated significant benefits in the management of patients with many complex and challenging diseases, especially in the area of mental health.
“There were more than 500 DTx clinical trials conducted between January 2010 and December 2019, including about 180 interventional clinical trials. More than 40 percent of these trials were in areas broadly defined as mental health, including psychiatry, addiction, neurology, and sleep medicine,” according to the Psychiatric Times.
Digital therapeutics can help treat a vast range of psychological afflictions, says Sheila Busheri, founder and CEO of Universal Diagnostic Laboratories (UDL), a cutting-edge laboratory with a focus on women’s and men’s health testing. Patients appreciate not only the convenience of an app, but the fact that digital therapies don't have the negative side effects as prescription drugs.
Here are some examples of non-drug, digital therapeutic options to improve brain health:
- Sleepio: A digital sleep-improvement program featuring cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.
- Daylight: An app dedicated to guiding individuals through worry & anxiety. The goal isto learn proven tools and techniques to get out of your head, face difficult emotions, and be more present, says Zephyr Chan, wellness and fitness expert and founder of Better Tools.
- Calm and Moodfit: Apps that help you track your mood, meditate and boost your overall happiness. As a result, you can address your negative emotions positively and de-stress, creating a productive and safe environment where you can focus on improving your mental well-being, says Chan.
- ReliefLink: Loosely based on the health-tracking applications of MyFitnessPal, the app provides solutions to mental health issues like depression, mood disorders, etc. through interactive activities, access to audio recordings, and geo-locating to match users with nearby mental health facilities, says Busheri.
- MyAir: An app that helps employees and employers foster stress resilience through nutrition and data-driven insights. It works by matching employees with plant-powered snack bars proven to alleviate the impacts of stress on the body, while at the same time aggregating data that enables employers to determine the most stressful hours of the day in order to create policies and practices that alleviate employee stress, says Rachel Yarcony, myAir's co-founder.
- Narbis neurofeedback smart glasses: (Affiliate Link) Neurofeedback has a scientific track record of improving the functioning of healthy minds as well as those with disorders. Neurofeedback-specific programs can be used to treat a number of learning disabilities including ADD/ADHD, Speech/Language/Dyslexia, Memory, Visual-Spatial Processing, Memory, and Motor Skills.
Narbis’ glasses work over time by allowing users’ brains to get trained to pay attention during tasks that require focus.
- Neurosteer: A platform that uses EEG-based diagnostics for brain health. The system works by monitoring an individual's brain activities to detect — as early as possible — neurological disorders like Parkinson's, autism, and Alzheimer's, says Chan.
Whether, as Clinical Mental Health Counselor Intern Megan Santiago suggests, your idea of digital medicine means mood-boosting therapies like binging your favorite comedians on Netflix — or using meditation apps curated to meet your specific needs — the market is awash with new technologies that have the potential to improve your health and overall well being.