Digital technology is transforming the way that healthcare is practiced and delivered, with areas like digital therapeutics (DTx) complementing patient care and traditional medical approaches. On May 26th, 2021, Plug and Play hosted a virtual event where corporate partners and startups shared their views on how tools and services like doctor-patient communication, cost reduction, clinician workflow, medication adherence, and patient engagement are evolving.
Watch the full event here and find out the main takeaways of this event in this article.
The event began with a panel discussion with Jennifer Thomas, Managing Director at Plug and Play Health; Dr. Neal Mills, CMO of Aon; and Bobby Uyama, Senior Director of Frontier Business at Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma.
Dr. Neal Mills is the Chief Medical Officer for Aon’s Health and Benefits practice. He serves clients across North America to assist them with the strategic and tactical planning and implementation of health programs addressing the increasing challenges of health care delivery and finance. He serves numerous Aon teams, including the Global Task Force on COVID-19, the Health Innovation Team, and the Health Transformation Team, among others. Dr. Mills has spent nearly two decades in the practice of medicine, with a focus on family medicine. That time includes four years at the U.S. Air Force.
Bobby Uyama, Senior Director of Frontier Business at Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma America, focuses on creating new value by launching healthcare solutions and exploring potential business collaboration that applies artificial intelligence, real-world data, and virtual reality. His goal is to bring therapeutic options and healthcare solutions to the patient population and their devoted caregivers.
Watch the pannel discussion:
Taking a Deep Dive into DTx
The conversation started by defining digital therapeutics, as it is different from digital health–DTx are evidenced-based intervention programs that accompany medicine or therapeutics and can show a real improvement in patient outcomes. Dr. Mills explained the need for a regulatory pathway for these devices, while Uyama addressed DTx from a pharmaceutical angle, touching on the different kinds of solutions that might or might not need FDA approval.
One of the issues with DTx is payer adoption. Dr. Mills explained that, from a payer perspective, they are attractive because of the economies of scale that can be achieved - showing up at the doctor's office is very expensive, but these remote solutions are effective and more affordable, providing better insights into the continuum of care. On the other hand, Uyama explained that, as opposed to a conventional pharmacological solution, DTx can provide more robust data from real-world usage, which provides patients and physicians with an opportunity to collaborate, to make sure the prescribed treatment is correct or not, and to define any adjustments needed. Dr. Mills also touched on what adoption and engagement look like for employers, with DTx solutions woven into employer health plans.
Touching on the development of digital therapeutics, Uyama expressed an interest in solutions focused on mental health that can provide longitudinal data, whereas Dr. Mills focused on solutions validated by studies, which are in the diabetes, musculoskeletal, and mental health spaces.
The conversation moved to address whether digital therapeutics can be prescribed by themselves or along with some kind of medication. Dr. Mills commented on how digital therapeutics can offer insight into the patients’ conditions, focusing on outcomes and monitoring side effects. Uyama said that these solutions work best in combination, like a mix of in-person therapy, medication, and at some point, a digital solution can help identify or better assess the development of the patient.
The impact of digital therapeutics on the patient is overwhelmingly positive, with Uyama addressing how the side effects of a medicine may cause the patient to pause meds, which is bad for patients, providers, and payers. That is where digital therapeutics offer alternatives.
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To conclude the conversation, the panel addressed whether value-based care has been a driver of digital therapeutic development. COVID-19 has deeply changed the healthcare environment, with the emphasis on value-based care growing every day. Dr. Mills explained that, from an employer perspective, any solution that reduces hospital admissions or improves lifestyles for those with chronic conditions is of great interest.
The conversation also addressed the role of lifestyle, financial impoverishment, or social determinants of health in digital therapeutics adoption, with a Q&A section that brought up topics like pricing structures or models, how digital therapeutics fits into digital health, and whether they leave the aging population behind.
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