Industry insights on how pharma is faring in tapping new innovations and approaches in digital health.
In two Pharma 2023 sessions, “Digital Health: Does Pharma Know its Role Yet?” and “Power Patient-Reported Outcomes through Digital Health Tools,” the reasons cited for pharma being involved in digital health were threefold: engage patients for the long-term journey with their conditions; keep health systems and physicians connected to their patients; and find patients who need higher efficacy treatments at the right time.
In the second session, Johannes Munding, director, patient experience design and solutions, neuroscience, Novartis, noted of digital health solutions that it’s a good idea to understand how a patient is doing in real-time, in the real-world, and shift away from current irregular touchpoints in chronic care. “We can assume when a patient is declining by tracking health data," said Munding. "Then we can plug in different services or different support mechanisms, to give them care at the time it is needed and, therefore, providing a better care experience.” (See related article from Pharma 2023 on Roche's platform).
Daniel Daugaard, CEO, Dawn Health, who joined Munding on the second session, said that it’s important to understand the benefits of digital health implementation for each stakeholder. For example, a digital health tool that would allow a neurologist, in the case of multiple sclerosis (MS), for instance, to focus care on high-risk patients. This could help translate time spent into more value. For payers, they would prefer addressing better ways to manage cases of disease progression, rather than paying for physicians' time on patients who have these factors controlled. And for patients: “Ideally, they would like to have a cure, but they would like to be in control of their healthcare, have more transparency, and feel more safe from a fear of relapse, especially in MS,” said Daugaard.
Getting to this point of bringing stakeholders closer to various digital health solutions is not easy for pharma. Daniel Anggono, global head, market access and pricing, digital healthcare, Sanofi, noted in the first session that his company is on a journey to align digital health as an enabler for the organization itself. “It’s possible, it just takes time,” he said.
BMS’s Spencer Jones, digital health lead, global drug development – oncology, says its process is to first do a deep dive into a problem and come up with a solution. “The answer becomes obvious to solve for the patient or healthcare system in that process,” said Jones. He added that it is very important not to define these exercises as pilots. “There is a lot of suppositions around that word. It’s really a fully functioning thing we are doing that we want to scale,” explained Jones. “It’s important for that first stage to have clear KPIs that are clearly understood by stakeholders, so we can explain what works based on this KPI or this metric.”
Anggono also pointed out that unlike in the pharma business, where the same active ingredient or product is available globally, digital health strategies require co-creation locally. “The product is there, but the care, patient, system is local," he noted. "It creates tension in large companies, so we need to demonstrate the concept is scalable while the product is not and will look different in every country—and that’s fine.”
Another takeaway from the sessions was the importance of partnering in the digital health space. For example, Rebecca Wray, senior director, digital health oncology R&D, AstraZeneca, shared, “Our differentiation is around the science and the disease, and digital health gives us a good opportunity to partner on the technology.”