SummaryDigital health solutions continue to advance the way healthcare is delivered. Through research and development as well as stakeholder partnerships, life science companies can leverage digital health technologies to optimize access along the patient care journey.
Evolving healthcare technologies are transforming the healthcare delivery system and shaping how patients access health care services. A survey from the Stanford Center of Digital Health found that 44% of respondents track an aspect of their health digitally and are likely to share that information with their physician. The accelerated growth can be attributed to 3 main factors:
- Continued advances in and adoption of technology impacting every industry, including healthcare
- The COVID-19 pandemic driving the need for more digital products and services to support virtual engagement between patients and providers
- An increasing shift of care delivery to lower-cost settings of care, including the home, and the combination of reimbursement incentives and technological capability developments such as telehealth to enable this.1
This shift is creating new opportunities for life sciences manufacturers and other key stakeholders to engage in strategies to incorporate digital health in patient care.
The Digital Health Universe
Digital health is a broad category that includes the range of modalities intersecting health and technology, such as telehealth, non-face-to-face services, remote patient monitoring, and digital therapeutics (both prescription and non-prescription). Digital therapeutics are medical interventions reliant on software technologies to diagnose, manage, or treat disease.
The availability and adoption of digital health solutions allows providers to have a holistic view of the patient throughout the patient journey while also mitigating access to care barriers by expanding physician reach via virtual modalities. In addition, digital health solutions enable improvements to adherence, enhancements to chronic disease management, and advancements in early diagnostic and intervention efforts.
Key Markets for Digital Health Solutions
Stakeholders are utilizing digital solutions to redesign care, leveraging new flexibilities that have emerged as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services telehealth flexibilities). In addition, the Food and Drug Administration’s Digital Health Center of Excellence has communicated commitment to accelerating digital health advancements through partnerships and shared knowledge.
Three key areas in which stakeholders—including life sciences companies—have leveraged digital health solutions include decentralized clinical trials, patient diagnosis, and patient monitoring and adherence. Descriptions and examples of these are provided in Figure 1.
Opportunities and Challenges for Digital Health Solutions
As technology continues to become engrained in the healthcare space, it is likely that plans will begin integrating these into healthcare offerings. One example is a digital health formulary, such as the Express Scripts®/Evernorth Digital Health Formulary, which is a curated list of technology- and software-enabled healthcare applications and devices. Through this formulary, Express Scripts is able to offer plans the ability to implement digital health platforms for beneficiaries. This offering is targeted for members who are looking to better their overall health in addition to those who are looking to manage a chronic illness.
Additionally, there is the opportunity to use digital technology as a form of data collection and patient health tracking. Devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit offer the ability to monitor aspects of a member’s health including sleep, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels. The wearables space is expected to grow to over 1.1 billion users by 2022,2 and the potential to leverage patient reported outcomes that can be monitored through these devices is great.
Adoption of these new data sources will require education for providers around changes in their workflow and reimbursement support. Patients will need assurance their private health information is properly secured and the relevant elements of their medical records and health data can be confidently and easily shared with their care team. Payers will need to be convinced of the value and clinical benefit of using these digital health solutions. Developers will need a solid understanding of the regulatory landscape for approval and subsequent coverage and reimbursement pathways.
While the pandemic has dramatically accelerated adoption of and experience with digital health solutions that enable virtual healthcare delivery, post-pandemic demand will be driven by the degree to which patients and providers wish to retain the convenience of digital health solutions they utilized during the pandemic and how well the issues discussed above are addressed.
The Role of Life Sciences Manufacturers
As technological advances in healthcare continue to grow, life sciences manufacturers have an opportunity for both partnership and product development of digital health solutions that can accelerate clinical trials, improve diagnosis and treatment, and enable patients and providers to adhere to treatments. Life sciences companies should actively identify opportunities to advance both development and use of digital therapies or tools that can be coupled with their products, which can help differentiate their therapies. Avalere has deep industry expertise working with clients on reimbursement and market access strategy, including identifying barriers to and opportunities for access. Avalere can help engage clients in leveraging digital health solutions in their broader market access strategy.
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- FAIRHealth telehealth tracker found that the volume of claims for telehealth was up over 2800% from December 2019 to December 2020.
- Arne Holst, “Wearable Technology: Statistics & Facts,” Statista, March 20, 2020.
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