Yinka’s Blog: Digital Therapeutics: what next?  

Digital Therapeutics: what next?  – a reflection on the recent DH.L/collaborate Summit

A big thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the recent annual DigitalHealth.London/Collaborate Summit, which this year we hosted in collaboration with NHS England and IQVIA. The theme – Digital Therapeutics in the NHS: the rise of digital therapies & the evidence that proves they work. A hot topic right now as the national (and international) narrative and preoccupation steadily but surely progresses from “should we be using digital therapeutics technologies at all?”, to “how do we know which ones to choose based on their evidence?”.

This being the first time (that we know of in the UK) multiple stakeholders have been brought together to consider this topic, in collaboration with NHS decision makers (providers and commissioners), policy makers (NHS England, and NICE), service users, SMEs, and pharma companies, NIHR as well as others. An ambitious initiative, which aimed to bring light to the key issues to be resolved around this subject, and to provide the forum to facilitate input and challenge from the different stakeholder groups.

Many people would have arrived with some secret hope of leaving with a ‘How to Guide’ on how to practically evaluate whether a digital therapy is good enough to be commissioned, prescribed or recommended. Me included. However, the reality is that we’re not yet at that stage in the development, but we are getting very close, and over the last 2 years, much ground work has already been put in by NICE to build the foundation for now creating some guidance for innovators and commissioners.

I hope that many would have left with some increased insight into ‘what good could look like’, and confidence in the knowledge that this is firmly on the agenda for both NICE and NHS England and, together they have the commitment to move to a stage of tangible delivery. The Collaborate event was able to bring to the attention of delegates real examples of what we can call, ‘truly evidence based digital solutions,’ on the basis of the clinical trials (RCTs) and studies conducted, often presenting a mix of RCT and real-world evidence data. We know from feedback that delegates valued the cross-section of people being present to provide insight into other peoples’ worlds, experiences and decision making, when it comes to digital health. NHS and policy delegates valued the opportunity to hear first-hand the issues faced by innovators in generating evidence. Certainly, from the level of discussion and engagement in the room, it felt like many people were pleased to have been involved in the meeting.

I believe this develops some of the themes presented by the Digital Therapeutics Alliance in September 2017, when they hosted their first summit ‘Defining Validated Digital Interventions’, in Boston, US. This week DH.L team member Josh Wong attended the HealthXL Global Gathering at Silicon Valley Bank which again, continued to build on this momentum with the topic of digital therapeutics being discussed, centred around the question: “Can they be as good as drugs?” The audience comprised of NHS colleagues, industry, insurance, pharma and venture capital firms. Other items on the HealthXL agenda included New Models of Care, Precision Medicine and Deep Learning.

Eugene Borukhovich, Global Head, Digital Health Incubation & Innovation, Bayer, commented that “today, pharma is still about pills, bottles and lotions, and patients who are looking for solutions will drive future developments in digital therapeutics”. Whilst Dr Vishal Gulati, Venture Partner, Draper Esprit plc, commented “one thing we realised is, that the value in digital therapeutics is getting bigger, and with every day that passes, the patient becomes more and more important”. Looking forward, our focus should be on areas where there’s a huge gap between demand and supply. The key is in understanding how we get there, and what the bridge to it is.

I’m encouraged that we are firmly on the way to moving this along from the ‘debate’ stage to ‘delivering’ the guidance needed to support decision making around digital therapies. DigitalHealth.London will continue to remain a key actor in making this happen.