From apps, sensors, and wearables treating depression and insomnia to VR applications for physical therapy or memory disorders, digital therapeutics are here and they work. But many roadblocks still stand in the way of broad patient benefit.
The industry needs a means to separate strong, proven digital therapeutics from unproven or low-value applications. It needs a smooth workflow to integrate DTx into practice without overwhelming our already overburdened care providers. And it needs regulation: rigorous standards for safety and efficacy as well as clarity about regulation and reimbursement across borders.
At Frontiers, we’ll bring DTx leaders together to identify and articulate these roadblocks, to analyzepolicies and partnership strategies which have proven successful so far in overcoming them, and to take a role in leading this promising category into its bright future.
2. DIGITAL CARE DELIVERY AND TELEHEALTH
While telehealth lets patients talk to their doctors from home, sensors, devices, and virtual care platforms greatly expand what can be done without a visit to the hospital.
The so-called “hospital at home” isn’t just a convenience play for patients. It also benefits rural patients and patients with low mobility, helps patients to avoid COVID exposure or other hospital-acquired infections, and helps health systems to better manage follow-up care and chronic condition management for large patient populations. The use of home health devices also generates massive amounts of Real-World Evidence (RWE) data, which can be a great boon for providers, insurers, and pharma and med device companies – provided it can be codified, collected, and harmonised efficiently.
Patients are ready to take charge of their own health. In a post-COVID world, they’re expecting care anywhere, and they’re expecting personalised, precision treatment. We’ll need to embrace all our digital capabilities to deliver it.
3. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN LIFE-SCIENCES
Now life sciences companies large and small are grappling with the many ways that digital technology is changing the nature of their business. Commercialisation models must change to keep up with a changing market due to provider consolidations, changing operating models, rising costs and new regulations. Sales and marketing channelsmust evolve to meet patients and providers where they are online and through social media. Medical education is changing in both medium and message as digital health becomes an essential part of healthcare.
And it’s no different on the R&D side of the business. Clinical trials are facing disruption on multiple fronts as decentralised trials become table stakes even as the industry is called to account on equity and representation in trials. Increasingly sophisticated AI models and big data applications like synthetic controls are changing the game in drug development as well. And that’s not even mentioning digital therapeutics and drug companion apps.
No, digital transformation can’t be stopped. But, with the potential to develop lifesaving treatments faster and deliver them to patients seamlessly, why would we want to stop it anyway?
4. FUNDING, SCALING AND BUSINESS MODELS
The last few years have seen the digital health market come into its own, with record-breaking investment that took off in 2021 and has remained elevated ever since. 2021 also saw a record 20 companies going public, either through a traditional IPO or a SPAC deal. This investment and activity in spaces like see digital therapeutics, personalized medicine, provider-focused infrastructure and mental health, and chronic condition management was partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and its re-shaping of the in-person and digital worlds, but partly it was the culmination of many years of steadily growing investor interest in a dynamic and promising space.
But its by no means a certainty that these halcyon days will continue. The current volatile and uncertain market climate has seen drops in valuations, public companies bought back into private ownership, new sources of competition, and other worrying signs as companies struggle to deliver value to investors after huge funding raises.
The next few years will be a pivotal time for the future of digital health markets, and at Frontiers we’ll explore the key questions that will determine how that future goes.
5. CROSS-INDUSTRY INNOVATIONS
As we look ahead to the future of health innovation, we must look toward areas like biohacking, an emerging trend that investigates the ways biology can be molded in the hands of the average, yet curious citizen. And we must cast our virtual eyes into the metaverse, where users can immerse themselves in virtual content, allowing new kinds of digital health interactions: virtual reality group therapy sessions, anatomical holograms supporting surgical planning, or augmented reality tools to help expectant mothers practice nursing.
Who knows what else is on the horizon? Only by keeping our eyes peeled for new entrants and new technologies can we ever hope to envision healthcare’s future.
6. DIGITAL PUBLIC HEALTH
As digital technologies transform the healthcare industry, it’s important for digital innovators to view their work through a public health lens as well. They must ask themselves if the innovations they’re building will be accessible to everyone, promoting digital health equity and avoiding the exclusion of vulnerable populations. They must consider the environmental sustainability of their technologies and systems to make sure they’re not creating larger societal health problems down the line.
And, finally, they must center and empower the patient. They must champion usable, efficient, and secure patient data access and broad digital health literacy, to ensure that the final beneficiaries of the digital health revolution have the tools to be actively involved in their own health and care.
These guiding themes will be explored throughout the two-day event, both in Day 1 plenary sessions and Day 2 parallel breakout sessions.