DeepWell Digital Therapeutics is a company that will create video games that can be used to treat disease, and will provide external consultancy to also identify existing video games that have therapeutic value.
There are now several studies that identify some solutions based on video games as useful in helping people with disorders such as depression and ADHD. Based on these, startup DeepWell Digital Therapeutics aims to understand how effective this approach is.
The approach today envisages that therapeutic video games are made mainly as therapies, with playful aspects in the background. The goal of the startup is to invert the terms, aiming above all to create products that have the appeal and effectiveness of real video games, to ensure that the user-patients use them with the right intensity. Secondly, it will look at the therapeutic aspects of these games and bring micro fixes to make them more effective without affecting playability.
Play and heal
Video games have been used for therapeutic purposes for over a decade now. The first of its kind has been approved in 2020, and aimed at children with ADHD. The boom, however (needless to say) came with Covid, when the US FDA began allowing companies to market digital health products. without the normal revision process.
As mentioned, DeepWell plans to develop its own in-house video games, and is developing one to be launched in 2023. However, the company will also be focused on helping video game manufacturers find and enhance the healthiest ones.
“We don't necessarily make the game therapeutic. The games are already therapeutic, ”he says Ryan Douglas, which collaborates with Deepwell.
Is it possible that some video games will be marketed as "wellness products" in the future?
It is not an easy path: the territory is still unexplored. The biggest challenge leading to the mass advent of 'healing' video games is that of evaluation. How will the patient's response be verified? "Digital" therapies could have parameters and protocols very different from those needed to evaluate standard drugs and therapies.
Of course, it is clear that drugs need more rigorous testing: they can be much more dangerous than a video game in the event of a body reaction, or interaction with other drugs.
Therapeutic video games are likely to be approved with “substantial equivalence” processes in the next phase. In practice they will obtain the authorization because they are similar to other existing tools already approved by the research.
It is always worth remembering, though. Before moving on to "video games are bad for you" to "the doctor ordered a month of video games for my son" it should be remembered that this research explores the possibilities of treatment for mild or moderate conditions.