Workshop on the Development and Evaluation of Digital Therapeutics for Health Behavior Change: Science, Methods, and Projects


Alan J. Budney, Lisa A. Marsch, Will M. Aklin, Jacob T. Borodovsky, Mary F. Brunette, Andrew Campbell, Jesse Dallery, David Kotz, Ashley A. Knapp, Sarah E. Lord, Edward V. Nunes, Emily A. Scherer, Catherine Stanger, and William C. Torrey. Workshop on the Development and Evaluation of Digital Therapeutics for Health Behavior Change: Science, Methods, and Projects. JMIR Mental Health, volume 7, number 2, article e16751, 9 pages. JMIR Publications, February 2020. doi:10.2196/16751. ©Copyright the authors.


The health care field has integrated advances into digital technology at an accelerating pace to improve health behavior, health care delivery, and cost-effectiveness of care. The realm of behavioral science has embraced this evolution of digital health, allowing for an exciting roadmap for advancing care by addressing the many challenges to the field via technological innovations. Digital therapeutics offer the potential to extend the reach of effective interventions at reduced cost and patient burden and to increase the potency of existing interventions. Intervention models have included the use of digital tools as supplements to standard care models, as tools that can replace a portion of treatment as usual, or as stand-alone tools accessed outside of care settings or direct to the consumer. To advance the potential public health impact of this promising line of research, multiple areas warrant further development and investigation. The Center for Technology and Behavioral Health (CTBH), a P30 Center of Excellence supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, is an interdisciplinary research center at Dartmouth College focused on the goal of harnessing existing and emerging technologies to effectively develop and deliver evidence-based interventions for substance use and co-occurring disorders. The CTBH launched a series of workshops to encourage and expand multidisciplinary collaborations among Dartmouth scientists and international CTBH affiliates engaged in research related to digital technology and behavioral health (eg, addiction science, behavioral health intervention, technology development, computer science and engineering, digital security, health economics, and implementation science). This paper summarizes a workshop conducted on the Development and Evaluation of Digital Therapeutics for Behavior Change, which addressed (1) principles of behavior change, (2) methods of identifying and testing the underlying mechanisms of behavior change, (3) conceptual frameworks for optimizing applications for mental health and addictive behavior, and (4) the diversity of experimental methods and designs that are essential to the successful development and testing of digital therapeutics. Examples were presented of ongoing CTBH projects focused on identifying and improving the measurement of health behavior change mechanisms and the development and evaluation of digital therapeutics. In summary, the workshop showcased the myriad research targets that will be instrumental in promoting and accelerating progress in the field of digital health and health behavior change and illustrated how the CTBH provides a model of multidisciplinary leadership and collaboration that can facilitate innovative, science-based efforts to address the health behavior challenges afflicting our communities.

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