In episode 2 of The DTx Circle podcast, Karine Soulat is joined by Gil Bashe. Gil is recognised by PharmaVOICE as one of the 100 most inspiring people in healthcare, and by PRWeek/MM&M as a Top 50 Health Influencer. With over thirty years of experience across healthcare policy, pharma, life science, digital health, and venture capital, Gil is now a managing partner at FINN partners.
Together Gil and Karine explore the arrival of healthcare technologies and what this holds, not only for the future of patient care but also for the pharmaceutical industry in the acceleration of drug discovery and development.
Digital health: The challenge of integration
Staggeringly, more than 70% of deaths within the UK are a result of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease and mental health. When exploring this statistic further, it is apparent that the development of all of these illnesses can be heavily influenced in one way or another by environmental factors, such as smoking, exercise and diet. Of course, when looking at this broadly, factors like this may originally appear small but they have a compounding impact not only on patient health but also on our healthcare system, increasing patient and workforce burden and reducing the ability to deliver 360 care.
The digitalisation of healthcare and advancements in technology has brought with it an abundance of avenues to support patients and clinicians, enabling us to improve patient care and address the challenges within our healthcare systems.
We are now at a time where following a growth in investment and a recent drive in interest in the space we are beginning to uncover its true value to healthcare.
It may come as no surprise that the UK smartphone adoption rate is over 90%1, with this in mind it provides us with a unique opportunity for digital health technologies that we must leverage to “make people healthier, faster, and even when possible, whenever possible, prevent illness in the first place.”
Bashe discusses, however, that the key challenge we are facing as an industry now is not advancing or understanding the technology itself better but instead understanding how we can integrate digital technologies into the traditional healthcare ecosystem, to truly realise the potential for patients.
Innovators within the digital health space will be no stranger to the challenges of integrating modern technology into a healthcare system that is largely fragmented.
Bashe describes this as the challenge of integration. Novel digital health technologies are emerging fast and the space is rapidly growing – addressing this challenge should be on every stakeholder’s mind.
When analysing the challenge of integration further we realise there are many questions that get passed around between stakeholders within the digital health space such as, who gets paid for what in digital healthcare? How do we align digital healthcare with traditional therapeutic medicine? The problem is that despite how far we’ve come we are yet to find concrete answers to these questions. It is evident that to move the space forward and realise the full potential of digital health we need to perfect its integration into our healthcare systems. But the true question is how?
Overcoming the integration challenge
Bashe describes how the current culture of healthcare creates a mindset for each stakeholder in how digital health technologies will benefit them. To find a solution that is fitting to the needs of each, collaborative discussions are needed across stakeholders within the digital health space. Including industry, regulators and those passionate about digital health to help us explore opportunities and learn how to overcome the internal obstacles of regulations, payment models and patient safety – to benefit all stakeholders within the space.
“Digital Health is going to really be front and centre. But what’s slowing us down coin, and not the coin to invest in digital health. The coin of, am I going to make money or lose money from this? And we’ve got to resolve that faster.”
A prime example of how digital health could help overcome the challenge is that currently, doctors are required to learn as they go about digital health technologies, and how they integrate into patient care pathways. When looking at the power of digital health and medicine together and the future they promise, it can be surprising that professional education on such health technologies is not a requirement during medical school.
When trying to integrate digital health solutions into clinical practice it is easy to assume that purely starting this education earlier will be the answer to this challenge.
However, as Bashe explores this deeper, he emphasises that medicine is a knowledge-based profession and not a tools based profession, and rightly so. Within medicine, many healthcare professionals become hyper specialised. For example, a gastroenterologist may specialise in the upper GI tract and no longer see lower GI patients. Rather than expecting them to learn everything but instead he suggests we should take advantage of the opportunity here for digital health to support, by acting as an integrator, not only between the consumer and healthcare professional but also as a synthesiser of information across specialities within a hospital. Therefore alleviating the burden on healthcare professionals and creating a more efficient workforce.
“Digital health actually is going to be the integrator, and the practical foundation for healthcare professionals to do better in a specialised field”
The future of digital health
One area of innovation that is setting the standard for this is digital therapeutics (DTx). Digital therapeutics are digital solutions that deliver medical interventions directly to patients using evidence-based, clinically evaluated software to treat, manage, and prevent a broad spectrum of diseases and disorders.
Within clinical practice, DTx provides opportunities for patient-centred care. To name a few examples, it can support healthcare professionals to make better real-time decisions by providing them with objective insights into patient health. Secondly, DTx can help invoke active participation in healthcare from patients by enabling them to take better care of themselves and observe shifts in their health over time.
But it doesn’t stop there. In the pharmaceutical industry, there is a desire to deploy technology to support drug development. DTx has an array of potential uses throughout the drug discovery lifecycle to accelerate drug development and support the delivery of evidence-based therapeutic interventions. For example, remote patient monitoring technologies can be advantageous during clinical trials to provide real-time feedback on patient state – enabling instantaneous feedback on adherence and drug efficacy.
To learn more about the future of digital health and DTx, listen to the full podcast episode here.