Helping Dr Strange develop his superpowers

What if Dr Strange from the Marvel series – in a radical plot twist – returned to working as a surgeon? Might he use digital tools to further enhance his superpowers?

In the sixth chapter of their book, The Digital Pill: What Everyone Should Know about the Future of Our Healthcare System, the authors Prof. Dr. Elgar Fleisch, Christoph Franz, and Prof. Dr. Andreas Herrmann discuss trends in digital therapies, which allow for the personalisation of patient care in three distinct phases.

This book chapter explains how digital tools can be used to monitor symptoms, to support patients, and to improve self-management through just-in-time interventions and the use of motivating digital coaches. The authors further lay out how digital tools in healthcare are not only centred around supporting individuals, but can also involve family members and health providers in the patient’s care to help determine the best type of support suited to a patient’s changing symptoms. The topic of treatment and medication adherence is also discussed by the authors who lay out how digital apps can help patients with chronic conditions stay on track.

Fleisch et al. further review the requirements for digital tools to be prescribed by healthcare systems in the future. Currently, there are few large-scale scientific results on the effectiveness of digital apps, however there are first indicators that such tools have the potential to increase engagement and that they show no negative effects. The authors cite the example of Pear Therapeutics, which developed an app for substance use treatments in the USA: “In September 2018, the US FDA certified reSET, meaning it has formally been recognized by the government as an effective treatment (pp. 125).” The authors discuss several other apps which have been approved by the FDA, and also compare the US system to regulations in Europe. Overall, the authors highlight that there are now many companies working on developing state-of-the art digital tools and on collecting data on the evidence of these interventions. To assist with this new process, additional services are emerging, for instance the company Evidation Health, which specialises in collecting the necessary data from clinical trials in the USA.

To conclude, in the future let’s all watch out for those superhero doctors who are championing effective digital health apps to offer so much more than in-person care!

Would you like to learn more about the topic of digitalisation of healthcare? The English version of the book, “The Digital Pill: What Everyone Should Know about the Future of Our Healthcare System is available online and in book shops (see references below).

Fleisch, E., Franz, C. and Herrmann, A. (2021). The Digital Pill: What Everyone Should Know about the Future of Our Healthcare System, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78756-676-7. 10.1108/978-1-78756-675-020211015. Learn more here.

Fleisch, E., Franz, C., Herrmann, A., Mönninghoff, A., Die digitale Pille: Eine Reise in die Zukunft unseres Gesundheitssystems, Campus Verlag: Frankfurt a.M., Deutschland. Learn more here.

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