The foray of digital technologies in healthcare started with digitisation; it evolved in the shape of digitalisation; and continues towards digital transformation. However, the most exciting and perhaps most complicated adoption of digital comes from the field of healthcare that matters most to patients: therapeutics.
Digital Therapeutics is a relatively broad (and evolving) term describing the approaches used to treat a medical condition based on digital or online technologies.
While its potential is certainly very exciting, there are still plenty of open questions to be addressed:
The FDA has already started approving the first Digital Therapeutics solutions. This may have caught some by surprise - but the framework is clear. Rigorous testing can generate evidence of improvement compared to the standard of care. Moreover, the US regulatory body has pioneered the incorporation of Digital Health in the risk-vs-benefits debate.
In other parts of the world, inclusion is still a work in progress.
At the same time, regulatory approval is not the only major milestone in therapeutics of any kind: for example, post-marketing authorisation surveillance is important and required for the long-term success of any Digital Therapeutic.
Regardless, the ball has started rolling, and the industry has certainly taken note.
The costs of Digital Therapeutics (including those from the “bench to the bedside” path) are undeniably lower than traditional therapeutics. This lowers the insurance adoption barriers significantly, but does not necessarily open the doors for all cases. The payer/insurance ecosystems (both public and private) are complicated and fragmented enough to warrant a drilldown on their own.
It is expected that large unmet needs will be addressed first, paving the way for less greenfield areas.
Clinicians have the responsibility to treat patients with the indicated evidence-based medications for their conditions. However, treatment options are rarely straightforward, and adoption of new treatments is a challenge (as many “traditional” biopharmaceutical companies can attest to). With doctors, Digital Therapeutics face an additional uphill battle as this is an entirely new, and often counterintuitive class of therapeutics.
The clinician interviews conducted by Ipsos Healthcare and reported by Jonah Comstock in March 2018 clearly illustrate this. However, awareness among doctors appears to have increased since: PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that 56% of physicians have brought up the topic of such a digital programme to patients.
Still, reaching top-of-mind position is very challenging.
The ultimate beneficiaries of Digital Therapeutics are the patients. Are they ready?
The aforementioned PricewaterhouseCoopers report also stated that 26% of patients asked about such a programme. And while this is not a particularly high percentage, 54% would be open to trying one, if approved. But does that translate to adoption?
An important benefit of Digital Therapeutics is their inherent interactive nature that can help engage patients. This is, after all, another differentiating factor from traditional therapeutics. Importantly, “companion” Digital Therapeutics can enhance engagement for their medical counterparts as well. And that may be the winning formula.
What do you think? On the 12th of June, HIMSS & Health 2.0 will host a much-anticipated session on “The rise of Digital Therapeutics” – join the discussion in Helsinki.
CEO, Care Across