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Google, Wysa & Pear: Digital Therapeutics, Remote Monitoring Devices & Chatbots in Mental Health

by | Jun 9, 2022 | 0 comments

digital therapeutics, remote monitoring device, therapy chatbotsMany new technologies are already available as augmentations, if not replacements to traditional medical and behavioral care. This article will review three companies and discuss how their technologies will help change the course of traditional healthcare. First, Google has announced that it will be entering the digital therapeutics world by launching Pixel Watch, a smartwatch that augments the Fitbit technology that Google recently acquired. Fitbit is of particular note to medical as well as behavioral professionals because it recently obtained the long-awaited FDA clearance for its photoplethysmography atrial fibrillation (AFib) detection algorithm, which detects changes in blood volume circulation by taking optical measurements on the user’s skin surface. As outlined by the Mayo Clinic, AFib can increase a patient’s risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. With Google’s acquisition, AFib is an expected feature in the new pixel watch. When released, this digital therapeutic device will open the doors for Google to enter the crowded remote monitoring devices market with competitors like Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Withings, and Garmin. 

The Pixel Watch is expected to launch in October 2022. The device will have a circular design using recycled stainless steel and customizable straps. Along with having health trackers, it will include heart rate, sleep tracker, workout metrics, active zone minutes, and more. Developing technology to more precisely monitor blood flow now positions Google and its competitors to venture into behavioral health with more reliable advanced biofeedback tools such as heart-rate variability and similar autonomic system assessment with more sophisticated digital therapeutics. See TBHI’s previous article What Are Digital Therapeutics? How Can They Help with the Mental Health Crisis? for more information.

Wysa and Therapy Chatbots

Another company venturing into treatment areas of potential interest or concern to psychotherapists is Wysa, an AI-enabled Life Coach that claims to serve the mental and emotional wellness community. Wysa provides early intervention for mental health issues in 3 ways:

  1. An AI therapy chatbot
  2. A library of evidence-based self-help tools
  3. Messaging-based support from human therapists.

The therapy chatbots claim to offer rudimentary cognitive-behavioral therapy to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and assist users in managing pain to improve physical function. 

Wysa recently announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted Breakthrough Device Designation for Wysa AI-based digital therapy chatbots conversational agent for patients 18 years and older diagnosed with chronic musculoskeletal pain (defined as pain lasting longer than three months) as well as depression and anxiety. The FDA Breakthrough Device program aims to accelerate the development and approval of medical devices that have the potential to offer better treatment or diagnosis for life-threatening diseases and conditions. This can be a revolution in the world of digital therapeutics and remote monitoring devices, making it easier to access mental health care.

Pear Therapeutics: Prescription Digital Therapeutics for Addictions

Pear therapeutics offers prescription digital therapeutics (PDT). Pear Therapeutics recently announced its program to offer prescription digital therapeutics for substance use disorder and opioid use disorder, reSET and reSET-O, through telehealth provider, QuickMed. Its first telehealth offering working with the prescription digital therapeutics company is PursueCare, which focuses on addiction medicine. 

Conclusion

 With millions of dollars of development and marketing spending on digital therapeutics, many consumers will be drawn to using these technologies to treat various mental health conditions and addictions. Therapists unaware of these massive shifts in the marketplace by some of the world’s largest and most successful technology companies are at risk of being blindsided. With the emerging era of digital therapeutics, traditional therapists would do well to keep informed. 

Rapid advances in the remote monitoring devices market are expected due to liberal insurance reimbursement since the start of COVID. As with other aspects of technology development, applications tend to focus on medical issues initially, then increasing specialization opens the door to behavioral health issues, including mental health and addictions. The Pixel Watch is no exception, with a strong focus on the at-home market consumers. With claims of saving time and effort, digital therapeutics hold both the promise of quick and easy results and the threat of substandard care due to fragmentation and isolation.

See TBHI’s previous articles related to digital health tools for related information below.

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