Digital Health and Digital Therapeutics: Personal observations as of late

Digital Health

Forays and Thoughts so far.

Recent Endeavors

Lately, I have been a bit silent on here, as commented by a colleague of mine. So I thought I'd give a brief update on what I have been doing and thinking about.

In the past few months, I have been traveling quite a bit for speaking engagements and panel discussions focused on the digital health environment:

  • I was invited to attend the HealthXL event in Dublin, Ireland, to listen to pharma and DTx companies talk about implications of DH to research and partnerships, while also serving on a brief panel to chat about the current literature landscape in DH.

  • I served on a national forum hosted by PsychU in Chicago, IL, to discuss implications of DH on mental health challenges

  • I was at DTxEast, in Boston, MA, where I got to present on a panel about the clinical infrastructure concerns related to DTx.

  • I was part of the recent AMCP Partnership Forum on Digital Therapeutics where multiple stakeholders were discussing reimbursement and implications of DTx in patient care

  • I will be giving several upcoming talks as well, including part of the California Pharmacist Association meeting on Digital Health (a first for the pharmacy community), my University's Stoklosa event where I will give a rundown on DH 101, and several panels across the US with PsychU on DH and mental health, and ASCP annual meeting where I will talk about DH and startups and implications to pharmacy entrepreneurship.

What I am Seeing

There are several trends that I think are worth identifying that I can summarize as follows:

  • Digital Health is growing, but a lot of emphasis on DTx developments. Likely due to funding and Pharma partnering with many of these companies to help their pipeline and for advancement into their 'Beyond the Pill' mentality.

  • There is a considerable debate on the value of evidence in DTx, including RCTs vs. RWE which I am more on the RWE side at this time.

  • Payment is a significant concern - some ideas I think really will pan out here quickly.

  • Many companies have very well designed and mature products ready for patient use.

  • Do providers need to necessarily prescribe DTx or where do they fall into the overall health workflow for patient care is a question. We lack best practices, case studies, or overall clinical emphasis to guide us at this time.

  • There is little involvement of pharmacists/pharmacy in this space, and we are being glossed over in many discussions I am having or witnessing. I am really doing my best to see this changed.

  • Little to no general market-shaping on DH in the medical/health communities which I think may limit the rollout of DH/DTx.

Some of my favorite people in Digital Health: Parisa Vatanka (APhA) and Megan Coder (The Digital Therapeutics Alliance)

Some of my favorite people in Digital Health: Parisa Vatanka (APhA) and Megan Coder (The Digital Therapeutics Alliance)

What is Currently on my Radar

Meanwhile, some other advancements in the Digital Health space I am keeping a close eye on that I think are worth watching:

  • Retail health is going to be huge. Recent announcements from Walmart Health, Amazon, and expansions from GoodRx I think really stand out. I believe consumers/patients of the future will be inclined to this change in health dynamics that most current health professionals haven't realized yet.

  • Coupled with this is the rise of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) platforms like Ro, Hims, NURX that I think are showing the movement from brick-and-mortar to online shopping of health needs and emphasize the retail health movement.

  • Multiple health tech IPOs really seem to be picking up with significant investments.

  • I am happy to see Arine come out and get some spotlight. Been watching them for some time and feel they are a great example of how pharmacy can utilize tech and digital health.

  • I hope we do not have another 'Theranos Situation' in the DTx space -- would be a major setback

  • The FDAs recent announcements and what is going to come out of Pre-Cert I think are really telling of future developments

Overall Implications to Pharmacy

The recent BLS announcement on 0% job growth in pharmacy is concerning. I am very interested to see what happens in terms of these outside tech developments and their shaping of pharmacy shortly. I think there has been some reception by DH and DTx companies to having pharmacists at the center of DH solutions and serve as DH Coaches for patients. I wonder if CVS Health Hubs may be a possible window of what could happen. I would argue we need more emphasis and involvement in DH/DTx at this time as it could prove to be a means to generate significant job opportunities if leveraged at this time. Otherwise, it will pass us by quickly.