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Digital therapeutics: A new frontier in the management of chronic conditions

Oct 04 2017
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Digital therapeutics are digital health management solutions that treat chronic conditions by helping patients make behavioral changes that lead to improved clinical outcomes.

These typically consist of software solutions that can be deployed directly to patients, and are often paired with a coaching service. Digital therapeutics have been effective in producing clinical outcome improvements for several chronic diseases including prediabetes, diabetes, and obesity.

In a new study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, this approach was shown to be effective in preventing the development of hypertension in individuals who are at high-risk of developing the condition.

“Digital therapeutics gives consumers the option to engage digitally with the health care system,” said Jay Rajda, M.D., MBA, FACP, Aetna’s chief clinical transformation officer and one of the authors of the study. “As we develop more personalized approaches to helping individuals manage their health, digital therapeutics provides the important ability to enable digital engagement. Digital engagement solutions also greatly improve the efficiency of human coaches, and enable us to develop meaningful solutions that we can deploy for prevention of chronic diseases or management of low-risk chronic conditions.”

Prehypertension is a condition where blood pressure is elevated without meeting the definition of hypertension. Prehypertension often leads to the development of hypertension, unless lifestyle changes are made. Researchers of the study, “Efficacy of a mobile hypertension prevention delivery platform with human coaching,” wrote weight loss and a reduction in sodium intake are key ways to reduce the risk of hypertension.

“As Aetna strives to join our members on the journey to achieving personal health goals,” said Hal Paz, M.D., M.S., executive vice president and Aetna’s chief medical officer, “clinically-validated digital health management solutions will be an increasingly important tool in successfully engaging our members.”

For 24 weeks, study participants used a mobile hypertension prevention program to log meals, record their blood pressure at the same time every day, record their weight and receive bi-weekly phone calls from a human coach.

Researchers found participants who used the digital platform had significant short-term weight loss, lowering of blood pressure levels, and reduction in the development of hypertension, as well as higher user engagement.

Technology continues to evolve and devices can make it easier for people to manage their own health. By helping a person to manage their health and reduce their risk for developing a chronic disease, digital therapeutic solutions can also similarly result in cost savings by helping prevent the development of chronic diseases and complications.

The results of the study, Rajda said, provides further evidence that using digital therapeutics focused on the prevention of chronic disease can be effective.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate, about one-third of American adults have prehypertension, one-third of American adults have prediabetes, and 9.4 percent of American adults have diabetes, but are many are unaware of their diagnosis.

“Chronic conditions represent a tremendous opportunity to improve the health of individuals, improve clinical outcomes and generate cost savings,” Rajda said.