The rise of digital therapeutics: The new standard in PSPs

Digital Patient Support Programmes

Pharma companies and HCPs have long known that patient adherence to care plans is an ongoing challenge to achieving better clinical outcomes. In addition, adherence also has a significant effect on revenues and EPS for Pharma – with research indicating an impact of upto 100% on potential revenues and 20% on EPS.  Traditional PSPs, although well-intentioned, with their focus being on medication support and low-touch condition education, struggled to drive care plan compliance with their essentially low-tech approach to patient support. The winds of change in the way newer age patient support programs work are, however, beginning to blow. 

The patient of today is no longer a passive consumer of healthcare. Today’s patients can hardly be expected to show blind obedience and trust in their HCPs. The need to be better educated about their condition and to be closely involved in their treatment is higher than ever before. The rising adoption of digital consumer technologies among patients is a clear signal that expectations on user experience, design and content will be as high from healthcare-related services as they have come to expect from other services touching their lives. Caregivers are also emerging to be equal partners in managing the patient’s health and numerous health technology platforms are building for their more active roles in a patient’s recovery and ongoing health management. 

HCPs also stand to gain tremendously with these advances. The next generation of smart devices and technologies in the hands of providers will enable unprecedented increases in efficiencies, utilisation and patient care experience. For instance, smart stethoscopes and hand-held smart ultrasound devices have the ability to detect and diagnose potentially life threatening illnesses like heart failure or heart valve malfunction. The ongoing COVID crisis has shown that telemedicine can enable HCPs and providers to remotely diagnose and monitor patients, who would be otherwise inaccessible. Further, advances in AI enable even GPs to provide much higher capabilities which would otherwise require a specialist. 

The unexpected COVID crisis has also played a significant role in accelerating the adoption of digital tools in healthcare across all nodes in the care journey. Access to quality healthcare from the already stretched healthcare systems in most countries is proving to be a huge obstacle to overcome. At the same time, the rise of value-based reimbursement by payers (exceeding 53% of all reimbursements and expected to grow to 91%) puts further pressure on providers to adopt more efficient and scalable ways to deliver care to patients. 

The good news is, new age digital PSPs have risen to the challenge. By combining advances in connected devices, behavioral sciences and data analytics, these platforms are capable of driving adherence and outcomes to fairly complex care plans. For instance, Propeller Health, through the use of smart sensors, easily paired with standard inhalers, is able to accurately measure medicine intake. Further, through correlation with external factors like weather, pollen activity or pollution, as well as understanding patterns from the millions of data points from similar Propeller users and using subtle behavioral cues, Propeller was able to reduce inhaler free days by up to 36% in chronic COPD patients

Modern digital PSPs are emerging as the all-encompassing platform for connected devices, patient data privacy and consent protocols, behavioral insights and complex data analytics to come together to deliver clinically measurable outcomes for conditions as diverse as Congestive Heart Failure, Depression, Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes, PCOS etc. that require patients to follow a very personalised and complex care regime. 

Digital PSPs are hence able to move the needle from being simplistic medication adherence programs to fully featured digital therapeutics – bringing the patient front and center in managing her own care, supported by automated data gathering through connected devices, timely and persuasive nudges based on behavioral science and intelligent analytics that is capable of predicting a patient’s condition and recommend a preventive action. This allows benefits and savings to flow across all healthcare nodes. Patients see reduced incidences of readmission and better clinical outcomes, providers see freeing up of precious bandwidth that is already stretching at its seams and payers benefit from increased transparency, reduced incidences of hospital admissions and reduced claims. Further, by nature of the connected platform, it allows easy and improved access to other healthcare services like digital pharmacies, diagnostics and medical assistance at home. It’s no wonder that over the past few years, digital therapeutics are seeing increasing legitimacy globally, being recognized as credible treatment plans, both standalone, as well as in combination with traditional drugs. 

However, the pharma industry stands to offset the biggest gains in this emerging trend. Pharma marketing budgets have been under strain for quite some time. While Pharma has long recognized the need for repositioning itself as a holistic healthcare provider, the expertise required in building, deploying and scaling a fully functional and proven digital therapeutics solution, combining advances in data analytics, behavioral science and in many cases, expanding support through advice on mental health, fitness and nutrition, is not in pharma’s familiar backyard. Partnering with digital therapeutics providers, however, can be a credible way for pharma to accelerate go-to-market and be engaged throughout a patient’s care journey. 

Unsurprisingly, early movers on this trend within the Pharma industry, intend to fully capitalize on this by partnering with emerging digital PSPs and digital therapeutics providers, as is evident in Novartis partnering with Pear therapeutics, Sanofi with Happify and the recent $100m Softbank investment into digital therapeutics firm Biofourmis and Cipla’s investment in Wellthy Therapeutics. 

There are however a few considerations that must be kept in mind when partnering with a digital therapeutics provider. 

  1. Proven clinical outcomes: Clinically validated outcomes of care plans are a good indicator of the robustness and effectiveness of claimed therapies. 
  2. Strong pipeline of therapies: A strong team focused on researching newer therapy areas or building stronger capabilities in existing therapies points to a strong research acumen in the provider. 
  3. Holistic capabilities across the care spectrum: The partner should have the capability to integrate a holistic view of health across multiple care points, including medication adherence, nutrition and mental wellness. 

Partnering with the right Digital Therapeutics providers can enable Pharma companies to bring innovative patient experiences to market, drive patient loyalty and derive additional value through real world usage and outcome insights. It’s about time Pharma makes a move on this fast emerging trend and new way of delivering holistic healthcare.

Reference
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