Everything You Need to Know About the Growth (and Effectiveness) of Digital Therapy

Old joke “There’s an app for that!” has finally come to the healthcare industry as medicine moves into uncharted waters known as digital therapy (DTx) . You might be familiar with the broader category of Digital Health, which includes things like Fitbit, designed to support healthy lifestyles, or a smart blood pressure cuff that does some real-time analytics. These tools are used to collect data and assist a physician, while DTx are designed to actually treat the condition using smartphone apps and connected sensors and devices.

DTx are not just invented by programmers shouting Red Bull – they are usually backed by clinical research and approved by the regulatory body; The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently in the process of completing the DTx approval process . Many of these are prescribed by doctors, and insurers are increasingly willing to cover them. Thus, your chances of bumping into a digital therapist, as well as the hype surrounding him, increase every day.

Right now, DTx is surrounded by a gold rush mentality, with companies looking to enter a market that is projected to be worth more than $ 50 billion by 2025 . So it’s reasonable to wonder if the DTx you’re being encouraged to use is a real, effective treatment or an insane overheating of the market, especially since you can count the ones approved or approved by the FDA on two hands with extra fingers. … Here are DTx in different categories, backed by real evidence.


Hinge Health: Provided through employer benefit plans but does not require a prescription, Hinge Health is a DTx that provides physical therapy (PT) at home. When you register on their site, you are answering a few questions about your pain and mobility. The company then ships you a kit with a customized Android tablet with the Hinge app pre-installed, as well as some custom Bluetooth sensors. After calibrating the sensors, the app guides you through a series of customized exercises and therapies. The sensors will help you get into the right shape, and a remote trainer will contact you to cheer you up and offer help.

PT is one of the best choices for DTx; Once a program has been developed for you, the most important aspect of a PC is compliance – actually meeting that requirement. While the app is not a substitute for a literal, practical guide from a qualified therapist, it has real evidence and can positively impact your recovery and mobility if you stick to it.

Asthma / COPD

Propeller Health: The DTx Propeller Health is a sensor that connects to an inhaler used by people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The sensor then communicates with an app on their phone to record how often they use their inhaler, how much medication is being delivered, and the environmental conditions they encounter each time. This data can then be analyzed to adjust inhaler dosage and use, lifestyle changes that affect breathing, and encourage adherence to treatment. It can also be used to locate a lost inhaler through 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 the sensor, and if your doctor is not involved, you may not necessarily be able to automatically correct your prescriptions (although you can always transfer the app data to your to the doctor for a conversation). Research has shown Propeller is effective in improving asthma control test (ACT) scores and reducing overall inhaler use.


Somryst and Sleepio: Treating Chronic Insomnia is an excellent argument for DTx due to the variety of causes and the complexity of treatment customization. Most treatments for insomnia are based either on pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause addiction and negative side effects, or on less precise approaches such as meditation, exercise, or hypnotherapy. DTx like Somryst and Sleepio fill the gap between these extremes. Somryst uses cognitive behavioral therapy to “train” your brain to sleep better, while Sleepio combines learning and lifestyle changes to help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer and have better sleep. Both relieve you of your addiction to pills, supplements, or a friend explaining why blockchain will change the world before you pass out from boredom.

Somrist is FDA approved and has strong evidence of its effectiveness. Sleepio is not FDA approved, but there is ample evidence that it is effective for improving sleep and reducing the incidence of insomnia. Somrist requires a prescription but Sleepio does not, and both can be accessed through the Benefit Program or purchased directly. Given how sketchy the current treatments for insomnia are, this is a clear case where digital therapy can be a huge improvement over more traditional approaches.

Chronic pain

EaseVRx. Anyone who has had to deal with chronic pain knows how it invades and takes over every aspect of your life. There is also a real danger of dependence on opioids, which are usually prescribed to help people cope with chronic pain. EaseVRx is a virtual reality (VR) therapy. Patients are provided with a headset connected to a sound amplifier that amplifies the sound of their own breathing to facilitate breathing exercises. The app uses cognitive behavioral therapy to relieve pain through relaxation and meditation techniques.

If you think this sounds like idle talk, keep in mind that the FDA just approved EaseVRx for the treatment of chronic pain, and research has shown it to be effective in reducing pain. EaseVRx is only available with a prescription from your doctor.


Woebot. Every person experiences depression, and about 7% of US adults have a major depressive disorder. Depression can wreak havoc on lives and relationships if left untreated, but there are many barriers between people and trained therapists, including the stigma and cost of mental illness. Effective therapy that they can access on their own can be a game changer.

Woebot is an app that you can download to your phone at any time, but unlike most other mental health apps, there is reason to believe it might actually work . He was granted the status of Breakthrough FDA device for postpartum depression, on the one hand, and so there is excellent evidence that Woebot effectively multiplies bond formed between the patient and therapist man.

Alcohol or drug abuse

RESET and RESET-O. Substance abuse continues to be a serious problem in the modern world. While there are many treatment options that have proven to be effective, access to them can be difficult due to cost, logistics and the stigma of publicizing the problem. Pear Therapeutics has two only FDA-approved digital therapeutic drugs for Substance Use Disorder (SUD): reSet targets non-opioid SUDs and reSET-O targets people struggling with opioid dependence. Both use a form of neurobehavioral therapy called the community reinforcement approach to help patients change behavior and avoid patterns that lead to relapse and deepening of addiction.

Both reSET and reSET-O are available by prescription only, but once assigned, they can be downloaded to any smartphone. Aside from FDA approval, both have important evidence and are worth discussing with your doctor if you are struggling with a substance use problem.


EndeavorRx. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not an easy task. Difficult to make an accurate diagnosis and often misunderstood, many children struggle with this condition and with commonly prescribed medications. EndeavorRx is the only FDA-approved DTx on the market for treating ADHD in children. He uses video games designed according to the principles of cognitive science to teach young brains to pay more attention and stay focused longer. The combination of play and science makes this treatment a high level of adherence for children.

EndeavorRx is only available with a prescription, and there is growing clinical evidence showing that this approach to ADHD therapy is extremely effective in helping children pay attention and be more focused.


iSage Rx. Type 2 diabetes is one of the most devastating chronic diseases in the world today, and it becomes more prevalent as people live longer. Diabetes can be managed on their own with diet, exercise, and insulin injections, but many patients find it difficult to maintain blood glucose levels and insulin dosage.

iSage Rx is the only DTx approved by the FDA for Type 2 Diabetics. It is prescription only and serves as an instructor and support resource to help people self-manage their condition. Research has shown that iSage Rx reduces unplanned physician interactions and helps maintain a stable insulin regimen while achieving low hypoglycemia. In other words, it makes people with diabetes healthier.

Both start-ups and old-school pharmaceutical companies are actively developing new digital therapies and working to get them approved or approved by the FDA. Don’t be surprised if your doctor suggests this at your next check-up – but at the moment, the list of DTx with real evidence is pretty small.

This post was updated on 7/12/2021 at 5:10 pm to note that Somrist requires a recipe.


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