When medicine is the hero, you need a Sidekick to stay the course

Getting patients to stick to medical routines or change their lifestyle for the better isn’t always easy, but don’t worry: There’s an app for that.

With so many health issues stemming from lifestyle-related illnesses, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest aspects of the modern lifestyle may be part of the cure. Sidekick Health uses digital therapeutics (DTx), behavioral economics combined with artificial intelligence and gamification elements such as charity rewards to help patients adapt their behavior and stick to medical treatment plans—all on their smartphones.

“Doctors’ choices are too often limited to really just prescribing drugs, briefly talking about the importance of improving lifestyle, and then scheduling a short follow-up appointment in four months,” Sidekick co-founder and CEO Tryggvi Thorgeirsson said. “This kind of short and episodic care is quite resource intensive, but it doesn't really sufficiently move the needle because for effective lifestyle interventions, you have to have hundreds of interactions with a patient and constant monitoring and feedback to achieve that lasting impact.”

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The digital platform features the Sidekick Health app for the patient, a care portal for HCPs to remotely monitor patients with communication and support, and what the company calls the DTx studio, where a team of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and clinical experts create the portfolio of therapeutics.

Sidekick works closely with pharmas, including the likes of Pfizer and Bayer, in creating auxiliary DTx programs to complement traditional drug treatments. There is also a strong connection with patient advocacy organizations to ensure the recommended treatment follows those groups’ guidelines.

Starting with cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, Sidekick now works across 40 therapeutic areas including oncology, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Thorgeirsson cites the 150-year evolution of therapeutics which led to this new iteration of DTx.

“The first generation of therapeutics created large companies like Pfizer and Bayer. Then fast forward to the 1980s, and we started to see the second generation of therapeutics with biologics and later cell and gene therapy and that created huge companies like Amgen, and many, many others. Now in the 2020s, we’re starting to see a third generation of therapeutics—digital therapeutics—become a reality. In five years, we're going to be just what Pfizer and Bayer and Amgen are for the first and second generation, but we're going to be that third generation.”

Back in 2020, Sidekick raised $20 million in venture capital as the pandemic fueled the need for a more adaptable and digital way of treating patients. The company’s customer base grew as it created collaborations with global pharma companies and top U.S.-based healthcare organizations.