Key Learnings from DTx East
By Omri Shor
In a somewhat return to normal, I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2021 Digital Therapeutics East conference in Boston, highlighting the growth of the industry and growing use of digital health in the pharma industry and among patients. This conference focused on several key issues and areas of opportunity to improve patient support, including the use of advanced digital tools to help drive patient engagement in a post-pandemic world where more patients are using digital platforms to manage their health.
Over the past few years we’ve seen significant support from the pharma industry to embrace the digital age and evaluate new ways to reach patients and improve medication management. These innovations continue to make inroads to gain wider acceptance among patients, and reaching new audiences with support from employers, payers, and greater healthcare systems. Below are some of my key observations from this discussion.
Key Issue #1 – Digital Therapeutics Gaining Ground Among Employers
Employers have always held an important position in patient health, as 156M Americans receive their healthcare coverage through their employer. This also portents to hold a favorable impact on the DTx industry as more employers are exploring the use of digital therapeutics as a cost-effective way for employees to better manage their health. Jonas Duss of Kaia Health shared how more employers are looking to adopt digital health platforms as an add-on for employee benefits. Still, the issue of reimbursement and revenue opportunities are questions for the greater industry, but the advances shown by Chris Robertson at Virgin Pulse and Lucia Savage at Omada Health show that the employer segment is warming to the value of digital therapeutics, with future studies set to show their effectiveness among this segment.
Key Issue #2 – Payers See a Way Forward with Medicare Patients
The question of reimbursement is also of importance to payers, as digital therapeutics gain favor among patients. The question lingers, “who’s going to pay for it?” Ryan Lawton of Blue Shield of California and Liz Kwo of Anthem shared how outcomes from digital interventions are helping to demonstrate the value to the payer segment. There are also questions about digital therapies and their connection to prescription medications vs. SaaMD, and reimbursement around each. Given current success stories from patients and documentable data to prove effectiveness, more insurers are seeing strong evidence to support wider use of digital therapeutics and application to their members.
Key Issue #3 – Care Managers Using Digital Therapeutics to Maintain Connection
The role of digital therapeutics has moved beyond just serving the needs of patients and has proven favorable to care managers who can use digital platforms to stay connected with patients. As Deepti Jaggi at Astellas explained, more care managers are using DTx platforms to support remote patient monitoring functions, and enable a two-way communication connection, without the troublesome use of repeated phone calls. The data share supports patients to report their activity as they happen, without interrupting their schedule. Should patients need care, they can connect directly with care managers at their convenience. And care managers can push notifications at set intervals to ensure compliance and support. More care resources are employing digital technologies to support the expansion of the healthcare ecosystem and fill necessary gaps.
Key Issue #4 – Small Changes Can Drive Big Impact
One of the best presentations came from actual patients of digital therapeutics (presented by Akili Interactive) that allowed real users of DTx platforms to share their personal experience in using technology as part of their treatment. Each of the three patients spoke of how useful the platforms had been in supporting their individual treatments, and how using digital companions, they were able to track their progress. What each reflected on was how small changes driven by DTx platforms were able to create a big impact in each of their lives. They each discussed how they felt day-to-day, there was very little progress in their respective conditions being made. However, the use of digital tools was able to show how much their lives and conditions improved, and that reinforcement served as support to continue their therapy.
Key Issue #5 – DTx Platforms Deliver Value for Pharma and Patients
I was lucky to participate in this year’s DTx East with a panel about how digital therapeutics are driving the patient journey. Digital innovations have helped to drive advancements, creating a domino effect in reevaluating processes and programs. There is now a greater emphasis to ensure efforts deliver a greater value and really help to move the needle in improving patient care. Ema Offidani from Click Therapeutics and Sarah Ernst from Sanofi shared their perspective on how digital therapeutics are helping to support positive behavior change, and how platforms like Medisafe deliver necessary support in those critical interactions to ensure medication adherence – often a behavioral component to successful treatment. These actions are largely supported by pharma’s collaborative effort and yields strong value for adherence, as well as positive outcomes for patients.
As we close upon this year’s DTx, it’s essential that all aspects of the healthcare industry must find ways to work together to deliver value. This includes value for patients, providers, payers, and the industry overall. Traditional care models no longer meet the needs of patients and DTx is ushering in a new era to close gaps and deliver support in ways that meet patient needs. Digital health is now moving beyond adherence as the solitary focus and is helping to connect the ecosystem with the patient at the center.