A Different Digital Detox

Take your medicine. Don't take your medicine. Either way, it's big business.

Many folks are recommending a “digital detox”—switching off all mobiles, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers for a certain length of time—as a way to reconnect with things and people who are important to you and as a way to manage stress.

However, there is another kind of digital detox—using information and communications technologies to help patients who are either addicted to prescription drugs, like opioids, or taking too many drugs that they really no longer need to take, particularly older patients and their doctors practicing polypharmacy.

Over 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. The terrible consequences of this epidemic include overdose deaths, which have more than quadrupled in the past decade and a half. The causes are complex, but they include over prescription of pain medications. In 2013, 207 million prescriptions were written for prescription opioid pain medications.

Polypharmacy refers to the effects of taking multiple medications concurrently to manage coexisting health problems, such as diabetes and hypertension. Too often, polypharmacy becomes problematic, such as when patients are prescribed too many medications by multiple healthcare providers working independently of each other. Also, drug interactions can occur if no single healthcare provider knows the patient's complete medication picture.

Among older adults, polypharmacy is a common problem. Currently, 44% of men and 57% of women older than age 65 take 5 or more medications per week; about 12% of both men and women take 10 or more medications per week. These agents include both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) preparations, such as vitamin and mineral supplements and herbal products

It seems there are 2 kinds of solutions when it comes to digital health pharmaceutical solutions. There are those intended to help patients comply with their doctors prescribing orders (compliance) and there are those intended to get patients off drugs they no longer need to take, should not have been taking in the first place or to which they are addicted.

Digital health is having a big impact on the pharmaceutical industry. A recent report noted that by 2020 the business model of the pharmaceutical industry will be reshaped by digital health:

• 84% of participants said they consider it crucial to have a digital health strategy in 2020, compared to 13% who believe it is already crucial today

• Whereas digital health programs are today still in an evaluation and piloting phase, 73% of participants are sure those programs will be implemented by 2020

• 77% believe digital health will generate new business by 2020, and 94% believe it will either extend the existing value proposition (37%) or even invent a new value proposition for the pharmaceutical industry (57%).

• Consequently, all participants believe digital health will have an important (27%) or even crucial impact (73%) for the competitive advantage of their pharmaceutical companies.

Take your medicine. Don't take your medicine. Either way, it's big business.