Everything you need to know about the rise (and effectiveness) of digital therapy

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The old joke “there’s an app for that!” Has finally come for the healthcare industry as medicine moves through the uncharted waters known as Digital therapy (DTx). You may be familiar with the larger category of digital health, which includes things like the Fitbit designed to support healthy lifestyles or a “smart” blood pressure cuff that performs on-site testing. These tools are used to collect data and assist a physician, whereas DTx is designed to actually to treat a condition using smartphone apps and connected sensors and devices.

DTx’s aren’t just cooked up by programmers who criticize Red Bull, they’re typically backed by clinical research and approved by a regulatory body; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process for formalizing an approval track for DTx at present. Many are prescribed by doctors, and insurers are increasingly willing to cover them. So, your chances of encountering digital therapy, along with the hype surrounding them, are increasing every day.

There is a bit of a ‘gold rush’ mentality around DTx right now, with companies rushing to enter a market that should be worth it. over $ 50 billion by 2025. It is therefore reasonable to wonder if the DTx that you are urged to use is a real effective treatment or the product of a market overheating frenzy, especially since you can count on those approved or authorized by the FDA on two hands with fingers to spare. . Here are the DTxes in different categories that have real evidence behind them.

Physical therapy

Health of the hinge: Provided by employer benefit plans but not requiring a prescription, Hinge health is a DTx that offers physical therapy (PT) at home. When you register on their site, you answer a few questions about your pain and mobility. Then the company sends you a kit with a custom Android tablet with the Hinge app preinstalled, along with custom Bluetooth sensors. Once you’ve calibrated the sensors, the app walks you through a series of personalized exercises and therapies. The sensors help you get into the right shape, and a distance coach will contact you to encourage and assist you.

PT is one of the best choices for DTx; Once a program is developed for you, the crucial aspect of PT is compliance – in fact Make this. While an app is not a substitute for practical advice from a qualified therapist, it does real evidence behind it and can have a positive impact on your recovery and mobility if you stick to it.

Asthma / COPD

Propeller health: Propeller healthDTx is a sensor that attaches to an inhaler used by someone with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The sensor then connects to an app on their phone to record how often they use their inhaler, the amount of medication delivered, and the environmental conditions encountered each time. This data can then be analyzed to personalize dosage and inhaler use, modify lifestyle decisions that impact breathing, and encourage treatment adherence. It can also be used to find a lost inhaler via the app.

You don’t need a doctor or an approved benefit plan to get the sensor and use the app, although the sensors cost around $ 80 without one, and if your doctor isn’t involved, you may not necessarily be able to adjust your prescriptions automatically (although you can always take the data from the app to your doctor for a chat). Studies have shown that Propeller is effective in improving asthma control test (ACT) results and reducing overall inhaler use.


Somryst and Sleepio: Treating chronic insomnia is a strong case for DTx because of the various causes and the difficulty in personalizing treatment. Most treatments for insomnia rely either on pharmaceuticals, which come with potential addiction and negative side effects, or on less specific approaches like meditation, exercise or hypnotherapy. DTx like Somryst and Sleepio bridging the gap between these extremes. Somryst uses cognitive behavioral therapy to ‘train’ your brain to sleep better, while Sleepio combines education and lifestyle adjustments designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and have a better sleep. better quality sleep. Both save you from relying on pills, supplements, or asking a friend to explain why blockchain is going to change the world until you pass out of boredom.

Somryst is FDA approved with solid evidence showing its effectiveness. Sleepio is not approved by the FDA, but there are lots of evidence that it is effective in improving sleep and reducing cases of insomnia. Neither requires a prescription, and both can be accessed through a benefit program or purchased directly. Considering how piecemeal existing insomnia treatments are, this is a clear case where digital therapy could be a huge improvement over more traditional approaches.

Chronic pain

EaseVRx. Anyone who has had to deal with chronic pain knows how it takes hold and invades every aspect of your life. There is also the very real danger of becoming addicted to opioids, which are commonly prescribed to help people manage chronic pain. EaseVRx is a therapy based on virtual reality (VR). Patients are given a headset connected to an amplification device that enhances the sound of their own breathing to help them breatheexercises. The app uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat pain through relaxation and meditation techniques.

If you think this sounds like a lot of hokum, keep in mind that the FDA just approved EaseVRx for the treatment of chronic pain, and studies have shown be effective in reducing pain. EaseVRx is only available with a prescription from your doctor.


Woebot. Everyone suffers from depression, and about 7% of adults in the United States have suffered from major depressive disorder. If left untreated, depression can cause incredible damage to people’s lives and relationships, but there are many barriers between people and qualified therapists, including the stigma of mental illness and its cost. Having effective therapy that they could access on their own has the potential to be a game-changer.

Woebot is an app that you can download to your phone anytime, but unlike most other mental wellness apps, there is reason to believe that it can actually work. It has been granted revolutionary device status from the FDA for postpartum depression, on the one hand, and there is good evidence that Woebot effectively reproduces the bond formed between a patient and a human therapist.

Substance abuse

reset and reSET-O. Drug addiction continues to be a significant problem in the modern world. And while there are many treatment options that have been shown to be effective, accessing them can be a challenge due to the cost, logistics, and stigma of publicly admitting a problem. Therapeutic Pear has two of the only digital therapies approved by the FDA to treat substance use disorders (SUD). Both use a form of neurobehavioural therapy called the “community strengthening approach” to help patients change behavior and avoid patterns that lead to relapses and worsening addiction.

ReSET and reSET-O are only available by prescription, but once prescribed they can be downloaded to any smartphone. Aside from FDA approval, both have important evidence behind them, which makes them interesting to discuss with your doctor if you are struggling with a substance use problem.


EndeavorRx. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a challenge. Difficult to accurately diagnose and often misunderstood, many children struggle with illness and commonly prescribed medications. EndeavorRx is the only FDA approved DTx on the market for ADHD in children. It uses video games designed according to the precepts of cognitive science to help young brains pay more attention and stay focused longer. The combination of play and science makes this a treatment with a high level of grip for children.

EndeavorRx is only available with a doctor’s prescription, and there is a growing body of clinical evidence showing that this approach to ADHD therapy is extremely effective in helping children to be more attentive and focused.


iSage Rx. Type 2 diabetes is one of the most damaging chronic health problems in the modern world, and it is becoming more and more common as people live longer. Diabetes can be self-managed through diet, exercise, and injecting insulin, but many patients struggle to keep track of their blood sugar and insulin dosage.

iSage Rx is the only DTx approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetics. It is prescription-only and serves as a coach and support resource to help people manage their condition on their own. Studies have shown that iSage Rx reduces unintended interactions with physicians and helps maintain a stable insulin regimen while achieving low levels of hypoglycemia. In other words, it helps improve the health of people with diabetes.

Old-school startups and pharmaceutical companies are actively developing new digital therapies and working to get them cleared or approved by the FDA. Don’t be surprised if your doctor suggests one for you during your next exam, but at the moment the list of DTx with actual evidence is pretty slim.

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