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Will DTx East 2020 be a Pivotal Event for the Digital Therapeutics Industry?

Therappx has been covering the DTx series since the second event, in early 2018, as part of our curation and market overwatch activities. In 2018, we wrote about how the event felt like a big family reunion. It was great, in fact, desirable, as the DTx events always lead to concrete discussions on this industry’s future. However, it did show signs of infancy, in an industry struggling to find streamlined commercial pathways.

A few days before the next event starts (DTx East), we were struck by how this industry has become one with the most exciting areas in healthcare, with the potential to answer unmet population health needs.

Digital health during the pandemic

Canada’s Morneau Sheppell evaluates employee’s mental health monthly, and results are shocking, as their Mental Health Index scores have dropped month-over-month since March 2020. The overall Mental Health Index for August 2020 is -6 points.  As they describe in their August 2020 report “A negative score indicates poorer mental health relative to the benchmark, and a positive score indicates better mental health. The benchmark reflects mental health data from 2017, 2018 and 2019. A 6-point decrease from the pre COVID-19 benchmark reflects a population whose mental health is similar to the most distressed twenty-eighth percent of the benchmark population.”

With mental health suffering so badly during the pandemic, we began to wonder: Will COVID-19 have an even bigger impact on stress & anxiety than cough & loss of smell?

As Digital Health Tools’ (DHTs) sweet spot is in driving behavior change interventions, there are fewer doubts on DHTs’ capacity to bring value to the healthcare system. However, there are still questions and hurdles in regards to how they’ll successfully integrate. As for every DTx event so far, participants may expect answers on the industry’s strategies to “translate value into commercial reality.”

What will be this year’s main topic?

While regulatory & quality were on every lip in 2018, so was clinician adoption in 2019. For the upcoming DTx East event of 2020, we feel like the main topic will be payor adoption.

Worldwide, regulators have made significant progress in including DTx in the Software as a Medical Device category to streamline Digital therapeutic products’ regulatory pathways. During the pandemic, the FDA has eased its rules by releasing new guidance for the Industry. As part of the enforcement policy, it allowed specific Digital therapeutics to market to patients to support new demands.

DTx manufacturers can now collect Real-World Evidence (RWE) on their tool’s efficacy to facilitate future regulatory approval. Such modus operandi is adopted worldwide to guide regulatory or coverage decisions, making sure quality assessments translate into value. Companies like ourselves have helped raise the bar to ensure such modus operandi are possible and that we may evaluate Digital Health Tools on both quality and RWE standpoints. As of now, there is no doubt digital therapeutics may translate into value when recommended to the right patient at the right time.

With that in mind, providers are slowly innovating and adapting to new therapeutic modalities to better support their patients. The latter asks for more in-the-pocket solutions, from telehealth to clinical information and behavior change activities & feedback. Our latest survey with mental health practitioners uncovered that not less than 75% of psychologists use Digital Health Tools (including health apps) in their practice, while most apps prescribed using our products are for patient self-management or behavior change interventions.

Will DTx drive sufficient payor adoption to support their commercial models?

Each DTx event has covered this topic. The industry and payors alike have fragmented visions on the proper integration of Digital Health Tools in benefit categories and reimbursement strategies. First, in consideration of the fact that there is a broad range of Digital Health Tools’ value and potential for patients. Second, because of the possibilities for successful marketing strategies (Direct-to-consumer, employers, payors) that DHTs have. Third, vertical integration explains why the payors that are early adopters had more financial interest in covering DHTs.

Nevertheless, there is no dispute that the terms ‘Apps’ and ‘Formulary’ are on most payors lips. After Germany took center stage close to one year ago, the pandemic has led to further payor adoption both from public and private entities. It has brought a sense of urgency for payers in providing support to the population. The patient’s care continuum, as we know it, is currently challenged.

Therefore, from September 16th to 18th, 2020, we feel like there will be many new members in the DTx event’s family. Representatives from all industries gravitating around the DHT’s world, with new representation from payers, will be able to discuss how DHTs may “translate value into commercial reality.” Just like the pandemic has been, the virtual DTx East 2020 may be a pivotal event for the industry.

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