Medicine is one of the sciences, and science is based on facts and research. The Scientific Method is design to test hypotheses in a way that produces useful insights into the cause and effect of various conditions. (And it also produces more questions than answers in the process.) One key to research is that you must try to control the test so that only one single variable is changed. Change too many items, and you don’t know what caused the results.

The problem is that human health is messy. Healthy people tend to be healthy overall, but sick people are often sick in more than one way. “Comorbidity” is a big word that simply means that a patient is dealing with two or more chronic conditions at the same time. It turns out that most chronically ill patients are dealing with comorbidity situations. For example, an obese patient might be dealing with both diabetes and hypertension, and possibly even heart failure or COPD. Many may have a mental condition as well, such as depression. To treat such patients effectively, you have to consider how these different conditions interact and impact treatment choices.

Vida Health is a company that works with self-insured employers to improve health outcomes for their employees. The company creates personal care systems to prevent, manage, and reverse chronic conditions. Smartphone apps engage patients with coaching and monitor their progress. Each program is custom-tailored to the various chronic conditions of the individual subjects, taking into account how one condition might impact the treatment of another. The systems use connected devices such as blood pressure cuffs and smart scales. The company is data driven, relying on clinical results to guide their product development. For example, 90% of participants complete a 16 week program with VIDA. For weight loss with patients with a BMI score of 25 or higher, three out of four lost at least 3% of their body weight; nearly one-third lost about 10% of their weight. And three-quarters of patients with Stage 1 hypertension reversed to pre-hypertension condition.

Digital therapies delivered through smartphones are effective at modifying patient behavior and creating positive health outcomes. It still feels a little strange to turn to an app instead of a pill, but the evidence shows that these new approaches can be successful at getting results.